In case you haven’t seen the news, a small item from the Council website today says:

Mayor Welcomes Overseas Terminal Decision

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast has welcomed the Environment Court’s decision, released today, that gives the go-ahead for the redevelopment of the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) on Wellington’s waterfront.

Mayor Prendergast described the decision as a vindication of the move to upgrade and redevelop the OPT. “It’s great news for the city – and I look forward to Willis Bond making a start on this very high-profile development.” “While I’m relieved the decision has gone our way, I must say I was always confident that the Court would reject what was in reality a spurious and ill-conceived appeal against the consent granted in May last year.”
Mayor Prendergast says the OPT redevelopment would mean the Council is not faced with the bill for the upgrade of the terminal and the wharf it’s built on. Wellington Waterfront Ltd, a Council-controlled organisation, negotiated a $32 million deal in which Willis Bond & Co would pay for a 125-year lease on the wharf and terminal building. Under the company’s proposal the building would accommodate apartments on the upper levels and a range of other uses at wharf-level. The wharf would remain a public space with access to everyone.

The main points of the proposal:
Willis Bond & Co would spend some $16 million on repiling and strengthening the 101-year-old wharf on which the OPT sits.
Wellington Waterfront Ltd would receive some $16 million in cash and development benefits and improvements.
The improvements would include a water-level fishing wharf extension at the seaward end of the terminal, accommodation within the terminal of space for an artist-in-residence, and an upgraded public viewing platform at mezzanine level.

Mayor Prendergast says the upgrade will turn the OPT into “what it was originally meant to be – a destination”.

And goes on in that vein. Worth checking out for the full info.

So, what do you think of that decision? Come to think of it, what do I think of it? Hmmm, I’m not so sure.

On the one hand its a great move for common sense, as well as for Willis Bond and Athfield Architects – and saves the Council a lot of money from having to upgrade the wharf for no return. That was one helluva well-timed swim under the wharves with Mr Pike, wasn’t it Mayor Prendergast? If the Environment Court were wavering at all at that point, I’m sure that put them back on the straight path. It is a calamitous body blow for Waterfront Watch, with the Mayor calling their appeal against the OPT redevelopment a “spurious and ill-conceived appeal” – and, with the new, nasty, take no prisoners National government in place, that probably spells the death of public pressure groups from ever taking on subjects like this again. With the government’s Amendment to the RMA (“Streamlining and Slaughtering”?) Bill (itself possibly deserving of the title “spurious and ill-conceived”), and the proposed new massive increase in costs, it’s unlikely that Pauline Swann and her band of elderly masked Avengers will ever ride forth on their pensioner tricycles again.

And, all jesting and jousting aside, that’s a sad thing. Swann should be given a medal for standing up to the bullies at the Council and saying what she believes in. She and Lindsay Shelton, almost single handedly, stopped the Hilton dead in its tracks (massive shout out to the Civic Trust massive as well, of course – Respect to the Seniors!), and we haven’t really seen a mass outpouring of grief about that – except, quite possibly, in the WWL offices when they realised that they would have to pay for the wharf repairs on their own. Swann also has her off days – she (and the Waterfront Watch crew) also argued against the development of the Kumutoto area, and that now appears to be a well respected part of Wellington city. She protested heavily against the Council’s choice for Waitangi Park, still muttering for years afterwards that it was all a Council stack up job. But as a concerned Wellingtonian, pushing for the greater good of Wellingtonians everywhere, she deserves a gong. And, as we noted in an earlier post, she’s probably more likely to ever get one than any polo-necked local architect.

But, as always, there is another side to the story, and we shouldn’t let Kerry get her own way with the media spin-doctoring. “Mayor Prendergast says the upgrade will turn the OPT into “what it was originally meant to be – a destination”. Oh please, Kerry, just how gullible do you think we all are? What a load of absolute cobblers. It is a proposal for a set of extremely upmarket apartments for rich and wealthy yuppies, dinkies, and most of all, wealthy oldies keen on spending their kids inheritance. Oh, and with a little deck for fishing stuck on the end, where the poor and the hungry can go and cast a line into the water in the hope of pulling up a lonely sprat or two. It’s not going to be a “destination” at all.

Yes, I’ll give you that it hardly is a destination at all at present, and in a way, anything would be preferable to the current rust-ridden shed full of fake kashmiri rug-sales, italian pot-fares, bogus maritime clothing sales, saggy, baggy women’s knickers, and other generally run down, end of line, tawdry crap for sale. It is a destination just for tat and rat at present, but at least it is some form of destination. Once it is given over to the private sector for housing, that’s all it will really be: a rather nice housing area for rich people out on the water. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – rich people have to live somewhere, and who wouldn’t want to live out on the water, with the sea lapping round your metaphorical ankles? But why not just come out and say that, instead of trying to hide behind the well-spun fabric of PR tosh?