Prodded into action by one of our many readers, who helpfully slipped us a set of the Resource Consent drawings, we’ve had a chance to look at the New World (“Project Rugby”) scheme that is due to clog up the Basin Reserve even more. Far be it for me to question anyone’s sanity, but why would anyone want to build a Supermarket right on the busiest roundabout in the Capital and risk the almost guaranteed wrath of commuters everywhere?


Perhaps that is a bit too harsh – after all, the current inner-city New World is effectively on the centre of a giant roundabout next to Waitangi Park, and that seems to do alright without clogging the city’s arteries, while the New World in Thorndon is also situated betwixt an onramp and an offramp.
Update: just for comparison, here is a picture from the opposing camp, of the new Countdown supermarket proposed for the corner of John St in Newtown:
Yes, the bottom of Wakefield / Cable St is a far less busy junction than the Basin Reserve, I know, and we at the Fish haven’t seen the inevitable traffic report for this Rugby St proposal: but I would have thought that Sisyphus would have had an easier job moving a boulder uphill than New World will have in controlling traffic flow here. Almost without a doubt, traffic will be queuing up across the main Basin traffic lanes at peak times, and will be leaking away down (currently) quiet residential streets like Tasman as the traffic drain tries to unclog itself. No wonder that we are going to need a motorway flyover to unjam it all.


You certainly can’t blame Foodstuffs for trying to put yet another behemoth supermarket here, given that it is such a key site with massive traffic flows. As can be seen from my highly skilled and 100% accurate map above, there is a preponderance of Foodstuff outlets existing / planned in the capital, with other retailers also trying to get a leg in. But it is tedious that as always, the developer is trying to get the scheme in through the back door without a Notified Resource Consent. It’s not so much that “we the people” don’t trust the Council officers to do their job, but when it is a stonker like this, I fail to see why it should be hidden away. Foodstuffs want us to buy food there – therefore “we” have a right to have our say our bit on their proposals. And so, in the inevitable, slightly awkward presentation that is this blog format, here it is: some plans and elevations for your delectation.


The scheme itself is rather bland, although that is almost to be expected in New Zealand supermarket design. We never try to do anything too exciting here: it’s a Big Box with carefully placed frilly bits to take your mind off the behemoth size. The first thing that springs to notice is the grey rectangle of Guardian House, the “existing building” on the plan that really must just totally annoy Foodstuffs: one can only presume that the big food corporation has been trying to buy them out for months, if not years. But, evidently, moving they are not, and so the scheme has an awkward, slightly compromised entry off Rugby St (the little one off the Basin speedway), with people and cars both milling around together, trying hard not to run over each other. In one way it is quite interesting, with little stairs winding up here and there, threading their way through the neighbourhood, and up into the supermarket – I’m sure that architects Hunt Davies Tennent have tried their best, but it must be a pain to have to have everyone climbing up one floor to get in.

The focus has been away from the Tasman St frontage – that gets a just car exit, a service dock entry, and a couple of tiny retail outlets marooned on the backside of the complex like pimples on a hippo’s buttocks: along with a half dozen or so jaunty little apartments.


The former local pool – the former Boys and Girls Institute – has been kept as use for some New World office space. Personally, I’d rather have our community pool back please! If Foodstuffs really wanted to ingratiate itself with the locals, they’d forgoe their office space and incorporate a pool back into the complex.

New World may be “everybody’s local supermarket” (through carpet bombing blanket saturation of any opposition to their empire), but the design is standard ‘could be anywhere’ boxy panacea, with a series of perky little roofed apartments plonked on top. These apartments, rather too bland at this stage to be interesting, are presumably housing for the shopping obsessed: apartments for those who really fancy that fresh-cooked-bread flavour that New World fill their stores with. Actually, that’s far too cynical even for me – I’m all in favour for inner-city living, and living above the shop and all that – but these apartments look curiously flattened.


It’s all because of the dreaded height limit. The rolling height plane rules the roost here, and in a desperate attempt to avoid getting pinged for going over-height, the developer / supermarket / architect has kept strenuously below the Residential height limit. Its curious how when a Central area design goes over the height limit, an extra storey or two between friends doesn’t raise the roof (so to speak) – but when such an act is performed between non-consenting adults in the suburbs, all hell breaks loose. I’d be inclined to say what the heck, give them an extra metre or two in the centre of the site: or even another 5 floors of apartments, to really create a local vibe. The houses seem to exist at the edges for the sole purpose of hiding the vast expanse of roof, and so will have a dreary outlook west, although their views east will be very urban grainy, just like a loaf of Molenberg. The scheme should be notified anyway for the masses of vehicle movements in and out of the site, so may as well alter the architecture and produce a decent scheme that isn’t compromised from the outset.


It is the entry off the Basin that I find the least convincing or satisfying. There’s a wide verandah with seating looking out over the racetrack that is the Basin – unless its going to be leased out to a load of Aussie petrolheads pining for Bathhurst, it seems unlikely to be a place of quiet caffeine retreat. The folk at the nearby Marksman Motel are being driven mad by the incessant racing of souped-up Skylines and Subarus: the only good thing about having the major car entry this close to the Basin exits is that they may clog it up so totally that the infamous boy racers may have to find a new corner to drift through.


The main issue really is that the cars and the people are all too close together (risking daily amputations), and that the apartments up above that look all so weak and really rather lame. I am Shopping Woman, Hear me Roar! Why not break through that pathetic little height limit and build a decent apartment block there instead?