A local community pressure group, Rongotai Revived, has been set up to counter the proposed Wellington City Council proposal to limit the growth and zoning of ‘big-box’ bulk retail shopping. There have been a number of community pressure groups over the years – Waterfront Watch being amongst the more successful in recent years, but others include the Mount Victoria Preservation League, the Oriental Bay Rich People’s View-Keeping Organisation, the Aged Person’s of Wadestown Social Club and Toilet Lobbying Facility – or names and concerns to that effect. Curiously, most of them seem to include Pauline Swann, the indefatigable fighter at Waterfront Watch and Civic Trust, who brought down the Hilton Hotel and now has her sights pointed at the OPT. Citizens of lesser-moneyed suburbs such as the barren back streets of Berhampore, the deeper unhappy depths of Happy Valley Road, the curiously destitute northern suburbs of Wellington (you know who you are), rarely, if ever, seem to get their act together to organise an effective protest.
However, this time it appears that Rongotai Revived has really got their act together (possibly even got their ACT together) and posted out a flyer to a fair portion of the population in their battle to be allowed to build Bulk Retail Barns over a large chunk of Rongotai. Their presentation and logic seem superb: that shopping locally creates jobs, that Wellington is presently woefully under-catered for shops (compared with Auckland and Christchurch etc), that industrial or hazardous processes could be going on within ‘a stones throw’ from homes and schools without notification, that consumers don’t purchase lounge suites on Lambton Quay, that the ‘popular Rongotai Retail Park’ should be able to flourish and continue to lead the change, that 19% of shoppers at Queensgate Mall in the Hutt come from Wellington, that 32% of shoppers in Porirua MegaCentre come from Wellington, and that 91% of shoppers in Rongotai come from Wellington. Well then, that all makes sense does it not?
Let’s look at this a little closer, to see if everything really does stack up. Firstly, our Fish guts tell us to sniff out who is behind Rongotai Revived and their impressively produced brochure. The good thing is they are quite open about this: they list Eyal Aharoni (Prime Property and about 50 other property companies), Gil Retter (Dimension Display shop fitters), Richard Mazur (RHL Group which is a
monster US shopping centre specialist local motelier only apparently), Steve Cox (Capital City Flooring: a local business man and, I would guess, property owner).
Do the Rongotai Revived claims really ring true? Is Wellington haemoraging money to their northern neighbours such as Porirua and the Hutt – and is that such a bad thing? I’m a bad one to ask: Fish are notoriously poor shoppers and prefer to stay in schools, so the thought of spending time in a Mega-Mall fills me with fear and loathing, yet clearly they are the preferred shopping and breeding grounds for some. I am somewhat amazed to see that 32% of shoppers in Porirua MegaCentre are from Wellington – I’ve been there only once and it was so hideous that I never wish to repeat it in my life, yet clearly some dreary shoppers get excited by it. I won’t question their figures (although you could), but it would seem logical that the majority of those shoppers would be from Wellington’s northern suburbs like Johnsonville and Tawa: and these shoppers are hardly ever likely to travel all the way across town to get to south coast Rongotai, especially with the inner-city congestion we have now.
Personally, I think that Wellington has more than enough shops selling cheaply made tacky chinese tat, such as bobble-headed plastic nick-nacks, thousands of ill-fitting shoes and baggy sweatshirts for gormless youths, hideously decorated ’boutiques’ for banal brides-to-be, bogus bogan bandanas for bored and boring beat boys, and a plethora of bad-fast-food bars which process barn-fed chickens through a life of corn-fed hell into a simulacrum of saggy ‘spicy’ burgers. We have a bustling ‘Golden Mile’ that is mostly full of shops and decent shopping facilities, although in this current cold-climate of impending financial doom, even there a fair swage of shops are shutting up, well, shop. I really don’t see much advantage in allowing more shops to jostle into the market.
The Rongotai Revived plan entitled “Here’s an idea of what could be” features shops with enthusiastic optimistic titles such as Homebase, Home and Garden, Fashion City, Outside Sport, Street Electronics, Wild Surf and the Brewer. Given that the current Rongotai shopping area (sorry, Retail Park), features a huge Warehouse, and small Mitre 10, small Briscoes, and very small Briscoes and Rebel Sports, we can safely say that (and here I’m guessing, but it all seems so obvious) the target shops to get here will be a Big Save Furniture, a Mega Mitre 10, a Big Dick Smith, a Monster Noel Leeming, a Gigantic Lardy Lady Store, a Mental Monster Sporty Boof-Head Sports Store, a Krazy K Mart, a Dodgy Grey Importers, El Cheapo Chinese Tat-Stores and probably a Mega Monster McDonalds Drivethru or Krazy Komik KFC or two to satisfy all those fat stodgy bodies in their SUVs, sucking on their super-size-me lard-enhancing bottles of Corporate-Coke suckers.
OK, you can tell that perhaps I don’t intend to spend much time there myself, despite its optimistic ‘Potential Trolley Bus Link’ notation, or possible ‘Kingsford Smith Street could be recreated as a pedestrian boulevard’ claim. I’m picking that, as per the existing Rongotai Retail Park, most of the shoppers will continue to come from Wellington, but that the creation of this additional spending haven won’t really affect those northern shoppers who currently shop in areas north: they’ll continue to do so. The only effect it is likely to have is more cars in this area of town, and a lessening of mindless mall type shopping in the central city, but probably only by a small amount.
I actually think that the backers behind the Rongotai Revived proposal have got it slightly wrong. Maybe its me that has got it wrong – I’ll be sure to be corrected if I have. My understanding of the Council’s proposal is that they wish to have more control over the appearance of the Big Barn style of shopping, as well as controlling what goes where. The Big Barn architectural appearance is typically the lowest possible quality option, incredibly cheaply built with barely room for the thinnest possible veneer of architectural pretense. I’m all for a significant increase in the Council requirements for that architectural bar to be raised by a large amount.
But the main push behind the WCC proposal is, as far as I can fathom, a desire to keep the option open for light industrial in Rongotai. That’s an allowance for people that actually make things, and boost our country’s much needed GDP, as opposed to simple mindless shopping for imported goods. Only a couple of decades ago there was a concentration of light industrial in central Wellington in places like Te Aro and Rongotai, although the former area has been taken over by ritzy designer apartments (and lesser quality rabbit-hutch student dross), and so the Rongotai area is a vital last resort against the deletion of all manual labour from our capital. I’m keen on it staying as light industrial – factories are good honest places, that actually produce goods – plus, it is a real pain for both workers and customers to have to drudge back and forth to Seaview or the Hutt every time you need a car panel beaten, or steel widget fabricated. The scaremongering of the pamphlet evoking piles of toxic waste is disingenuous to say the least, and downright dishonest and silly to say a little more.
But enough of what I think: what about you? As the flyer says: “We want our submission on the Council’s proposed Centres Policy to reflect community views. That’s why we are seeking your feedback now.”
I can shamefully (I hate to admit I have passed through the area twice recently while browsing for cheap foreign made tat!) add a couple of things to this:
– you only have to look at the expensive, branded caravan parked in the area to see that big business is behind this. Not too many community organisations have such dosh to through around on flash stuff like that. The same can be said of the plethora of canvassers, who have the suspicious look of paid employees rather than concerned locals. (OK they’re not suspicious, but they look suspiciously like employees!)
– having said that, its surprising how many people you see signing the petition. Either many people are in agreement with the goals and aims of this group, or (more likely) it is a case of “some people will sign anything”…
There’s no reason for you to feel guilty about buying cheap foreign tat, Mr / Ms intriguingly named StimpsonJCat… we all have to buy tat from abroad, as we don’t make our own any more. And they make it so much cheaper, and so much tattier than ours….
but my question is: do you live near there? Or did you drive all the way from J’ville just to shop there? Hmmm,
I’m sorry, what was this post about? I lost track after the fourth picture. Can you tell me more about that fourth picture? Is there some kind of txt message alert I can sign up for when these games are played?
Rugby players in need of some new clothes from Rebel Sport, so it would seem.
From memory it was an Otago Uni midwinter regular thing. Probably keen for an exhibition match against a USA Uni side I would have thought. Def not All Blacks material. Too small, too All White.
re: the need for light industrial
While obviously we should be trying to keep a manufacturing base in the country, it appears that is a losing battle for most high wealth countries. There doesn’t appear to be anything to stem the movement of manufacturing offshore. While somethings (panel beaters, etc.) will always be required domestically, has anyone done a realistic assessment of how much land inventory wellington currently has for light industrial and how much is likely to be needed in the future?
Also, how is gst redistributed once collected from ird? does it end up going back to the communities where it was collected? or redistributed some other way. The reason I ask is that in the US sales tax is composed of two portions, a base fee which is determined by the state, and then a local portion. The state portion goes to the state which then redistributes as it sees fit, but the local portion stays within the city. Therefore there is a financial incentive for cities to try to lure big box retailers (despite the complete misfit of scale) into the city to try to recapture taxes which are currently going to suburban communities. For many urbanites, the notion of shopping locally therefore has additional merit beyond merely supporting local business, buying within the city limits helps add to a tax base the helps reduce tax burden from other sources (property tax, etc.)
I had a look at the Rongotai Revisited website. They ask if you want “this” (a photo of an old-style warehouse with some curious graffiti reading “FRANZ”) or “this” (a Beds R Us shop with a conspicuous number of shrubs in the frame).
I note that the plans above have a large number of shrubs surrounding the buildings, which implies that they must be pretty hideous buildings if they need to be disguised with foliage. Where as the old warehouses look interesting enough on their own (hey, bricks!) that they don’t need to be covered with mock bush.
Also, there’s nothing to stop the mysterious FRANZ from tagging a Beds R Us or Dick Smith or Mega Monster Boofhead Sports. Or at least the parts of the building that aren’t covered with shrubs.
And as a neighbour of WGTON Scrap Metals, I can say they (as well as the print shop across the street) are perfectly good neighbours to have and I really hope they both stay in the ‘hood and aren’t zoned or bought out. There’s nothing wrong with having light industry aside residential!
Robyn, I’m shocked that you could be so cynical! Of course graffitti taggers will only tag the old industrial buildings, they would never dare to touch a new commercial bulk retail barn building with their graffitti, ever. They’re honest, hard-working Wellingtonians, who would be delighted to see a new, barn-like retail building with large blank side walls, inviting them to scribble it, just a little bit…
The website also says:
“The Tirangi Kingsford-Smith area will be given a ‘work’ zoning, the same zoning as a landfill. This will allow noxious operations like abattoirs, asphalt plants, scrap metal yards and waste recyclers to be set up in the area without any consultation or community feedback. In principle this will mean that potentially noxious industries will be encouraged into an area surrounded by homes, shops, schools, playing fields and Wellington’s top surf beach. This is totally unacceptable.”
I’m willing to bet that no abattoirs are planning to set up in Rongotai, and I reckon that asphalt plants are pretty unlikely too. I think this is called scare-mongering. This is also totally unacceptable….
jayseatee, in answer to your question about GST, the answer is no, its all centralised. The recent Labour Gov proposal for a regional fuel tax would have been the first time that NZ taxpayers had been targeted on an area by area basis – that’s just beeen quashed by National – so its back to a uniformly centralised collection and distribution system.
Mind you, i hated the way that state and federal taxes are collected in the States. You’d see something advertised for a price (plus tax) and go to buy it, only to find that the end result to your pocket or to your plastic was shockingly higher. From memory, you could have State Tax, Federal Tax, and was there another? I remember New York particularly bit hard…
I’ll agree with you about the sticker shock about sales taxes. I do prefer the way that GST is already included, and I don’t understand why the US just can’t include the tax in the price (although I guess it might be more complicated for a national chain where they have a database where the prices come up.)
FYI – there is no federal sales tax, but there are typically 3 levels – state, county, and city. Although it is ironic to have sticker shock when you compare that the highest of sales tax in the US tends to be around 9% compared to 12.5 for GST. Some states (montana) have no sales tax at all, others have more moderate (5-6%). Then there are crazy rules about what is taxed. In some states groceries are not taxed, while in some states they are. In some states groceries that can’t be eaten in the store aren’t taxed, but anything that could be eaten out of the packaging is taxed.
sorry, I’m taking this off topic, from what was an sincere question related to the topic at hand, but for a description of how crazy the sales tax system in the US check this out.
Yeah, i was just looking at the same article. Washington and Vermont have a 10% tax i see, but California and Illinois max out with a combined tax and surtax (tax on a tax? that’s bad) of around 16-17%. Like you say, its less noticeable here where it id all inclusive, and that’s the reason that NZ has it on everything. No exceptions for food. No exceptions for cooked salami. No exceptions.
Anyway: as you say: totally off topic. The subject is: Rongotai.
And according to their website, the sinister or suspicious local pollsters are:
“We have more than 600 signatures supporting Rongotai Revived and it’s only the beginning. Questionnaires are filling our mailbox. We also have students collecting signatures at Rongotai Retail Park during the next few weekends.”
but they haven’t got anybody putting comments on their blog. Possibly that’s because they may not be used to the wonderful all pervading sense of public participation we have here at the Fish, maybe its just because they’ve signed the piece of paper and feel they don’t have to do any more.
Anyway: keep on commenting here, because the Council follows what is being said here (with the possible exception of discussions on State tax), but also feel free to tax the discussion to their blog also:
I guess that i have a contrarian viewpoint to this discussion which comes from being a complete outsider and not knowing the history of planning in wellington.
The first part is that to me, on the basis of land planning as highest and best use, rongotai/kilbirnie appears to be a perfect location for a higher density mixed use development. I don’t agree with putting the sports centre in this location, but due to the flat land and relative proximity to the centre city, it fits the bill for increased density.
I know that the majority of these stores are not popular to many architects/designers/general urban enthusiasts, but they do obviously have a following. ONe approach, which is the general one here it appears, is to say, “that’s fine, those who want that crap can drive to lower hutt/porirura”. While it can be a enticing argument for some of us, this only results in worse transport problems – more development further out only increases the desire for more roads, for further distances, increasing our roading bills.
I do think there is an argument for these retailers within a closer proximity to the centre city. The reality is that the warehouse, or other big box retailers will never be on the golden mile. There is not room for them, nor are they interested in the retail rent. As Te Aro continues to develop I imagine we will see more of them move out, which frankly thrills me as Tory street is such a car mangled mess because the combination of all of them that I hate going down it.
I do see a particular advantage in increasing density and particularly retail in the kilbirnie/rongotai area, as a an argument for the necessity for light rail to the airport, particularly if the development includes increased housing density.
From my relatively short time here, I already know that any call for increased density is likely to send people into histrionic fits, even among some in the architecture community, which confounds me. There have been many successful examples of this type of mixed use development, which increase urban activity, provide a node for transit connectivity, and provide an active community that isn’t dead after the shops close at 6.
The image I’m linking to is a development just south of DC near the Pentagon. In the early 80’s RTKL designed the Pentagon City Mall, which was your standard indoor shopping centre. 4 stories, flagship department stores, indoor atrium, etc. In 2000 they designed an adjacent development which was an exterior oriented, mixed use, including grocery stores, equivalents of briscoes, plastic box, many restaurants, gyms, etc, along with 4 stories of apartments. Admittedly the architecture is terrible post modern crap, but the concept has performed supremely at creating an active urban place that supports both retail and living and encouraging activity beyond the typical 9-6 range. In addition there is the added sense of security from the eyes on the street from mix of activities.
This is just one example of hundreds of transit oriented developments that have been developed in the US, which have successfully proven that the suburban shopping model does not have to be acres of asphalt surrounded by cheap barn buildings.
Wellington does seem to be stuck in a particular frame of planning which I think many recent development prove is not working particularly well. The refrain from the general population including designers seems to be not at all (to any increased development) instead of trying to push innovation of how to achieve multiple goals.
I do think the just say no mentality and pushing big box retailers further from town will only damn us to a future of more discussions about Transmission Gully 2, 3 & 4.
Contrarian views welcomed. I’m not against the development at Rongotai – just merely unlikely to use it myself. I guess what I do take objection to is the assumption by the Rongotai Revived consortium of property owners and big-box barn shop-pushers, that Council is automatically out to stop them. They’re kicking and screaming and stamping their feet in the way that big money can. And, judging by the promoters, there is a large amount of Big Money behind this proposal.
In my humble life experience, Big Money seldom does anything good for me, as an individual, while it does have the effect of making a lot more money for those who already have some.
The Council’s discussion document “Planning our suburbs – Draft plan changes for the residential and suburban centre zones of the city’s District Plan” , is presumably the document that the promoters want you to sign their petition against.
I’m confused. Under Part 2 – Suburban Centres, it has the following headings:
Planning for Growth
Strengthening our centres – a new centres hierachy
Safeguarding land for business and industrial uses
Urban Design quality
‘Active edges’ and ground-level frontages
Managing effects of activities
Traffic generation and parking
Changes to zone boundaries
All of which seem to be quite reasonable things to debate, to me. What, exactly, are the promotors protesting about?
just to be clear, I’m not supportive of the development as currently indicated, my comments were that development shouldn’t be automatically ruled out and that if retail development occurs it should include a mix of housing.
it appears to be an astroturf group to change the rules before a discussion has even had a chance to take place.
an “astroturf group” ? ¿qué es eso?
An astroturf group is any corporate sponsored lobbying that appears to be a “grassroots” effort for democratic action.
In this case it’s quite clear as the about us lists primeproperties as one of the main members.
Well, if we are prepared to wait another 10 or 15 years, we could all have fun playing this game…
It’s all right, in 50 years that whole area will be underwater anyway. :)
a Spam Museum in Austin (Minnesota) ! http://www.bigboxreuse.com/pics/spam/spam-Pages/Image23.html
Why thank you Starkive, that’s a great site. Even better than my previous mall-favourite: http://www.deadmalls.com/
It’s my (limited) understanding that not being strictly approved under the DP is not a barrier to doing this stuff. Its just means that you aren’t automatically allowed to do certain things. I am sure that if these guys put together a firm proposal like their wonderful “here’s an idea” plan (as shown in the fourth image – or is that the nubile rugger players?…:) ) and actually built/paid for all the infrastructure etc., then Wellingtonians as a whole would probably be pretty happy.
However, there is a strong sense they want to change the DP so they can automatically build certain kinds of things, without engaging the public to the same extent, thereby not having to put up anything other that than big-box “tat stores”, and thus making the quick money without really “benefiting” the community. (Lets not get too far into the discussion about why entrepreneurs should benefit the community. I guess I really mean we want well thought out, long term plans that create better, nicer places and community. however you say that… )
And lets not forget we’ll need bigger and boxer Rebel Sports when the new sports thingee gets built just down the road. Assuming the council finally get around to stopping their internal bickering…
I saw the big box reuse link here, then went to look through a bunch of american architecture magazines that were recently mailed to me, picked up an issue of Architect and there was an article about the research/book & website.
Another interesting one I found advertised but have not read is Retrofitting Suburbia – looks interesting.
What intrigues me is something that has yet to be discussed: Location. You’re talking about a big-box development right next to the airport.
See, I have many a memory of lessons at Rongotai College being interrupted by the noise of a plane taking off (and adding the hushkits to Air NZ’s old 737-200s only made a marginal difference).
Now they want to put a huge new retail development right there? What for? To trap planes? I mean, as it is, if a 767 takes off while another 767 is on the taxiway, the two will clip wings unless the one taking off manages to get airborne first- and Wellington airport’s runway ain’t that long, and as flat as the area may be, there isn’t that much room for a 737-sized McD’s drive through.
And then there’s the tsunami risk. Serious. At Rongotai we had tsunami drills that involved us getting as close to Wellington Airport’s control tower within 9 minutes of the alarm as possible. You want to put something that attracts large numbers of people right in the path of a tsunami that would hit within minutes of a quake centred in the Cook Strait/Kaikoura Trench? That’s a very, very, very real possibility.
re: the noise concern, i think retail is better suited next to an airport than a school for sure. But there are obvious concerns about noise and security near airports that are dealt with all over the world.
re: the tsunami, i did see the article this weekend, but is the threat of a tsunami any worse than the threat of an earthquake that would induce liquefaction throughout te aro and the infilled areas of cbd? I don’t know the likelihood of either, but i suppose most of wellington is susceptible to the effects of a major disaster event. The more frequent problem would be the exposure to southerlies I would say.
jaseatee – what tsunami? what article? i must have missed it.
Chris – you’re right, i’m sure, but then: people live there, close to noise and sure-fire death and destruction by tsunami, for only one reason: cheaper housing. Its a good trade off, and a time-honoured one: your money or your life.
By the way, the WGTON Scrap Metal building got a coat of paint a few months ago and is now looking even more outrageously BLUE and YELLOW in a street of grey and beige.
I’m probably a key member of the demographic for this thing; I’m a professional with a young family. We live in the northern suburbs (Newlands, ho! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, 20 mins by bike from the CBD), and I work in Miramar, so I actually use all of the “big box” locations you mention. And I gotta say – when it’s a choice between a big box and site a and one at site b, the only deciding factor is going to be convenience. So if I need to get a new outfit for the kids, I’ll go to the whichever place is easiest to get to. So that’s Porirua or Tawa, then.
But presumably their intended catchment isn’t me – it’s all the people for whom it’s easier, or at least not signfiicantly harder, to get to Rongotai. So that’d be everyone east of, say, a line drawn from the Aro Valley to Thorndon. That’s a lot of people, so you can see why developers would like to be able to throw up big boxes _somewhere_ to catch the market. And, quite frankly, where else in Wellington City do you have large lumps of reasonably flat land without too much dense settlement? Hence the focus on Rongotai. It’s pretty easy to understand why they’re focussing here.
Of course, the area is pretty badly served for big traffic flows. Getting to the existing retail park area is already a pain; if they enlarge it I’m not expecting access to get better. Except that then there’ll be an argument for enlargening roads etc, because people have to get to the retail park… Chicken, meet egg.
And yeah, I’d agree that the developers are being pretty disingenuous and using scare tactics on this one. Ironic, a bit. I think they’d get just as many signatures with a petition like “Hey, let us build a megamall in Wellington city! We can’t be behind the Hutt/Porirua!”.
Now now jack – don’t lets get to reasonable and align yourself with all those “dreary shoppers”…
Actually, you have gone and provided something of a summary of the post I have just made over at the Arch Centre website as a direct response to this post…
It seems a bit hypocritical for the retail developers to be banging the drum over the evils of light industrial when the retailers are the cause of the biggest eyesore in Wellington – the now demolished and defaced supermarket site in Mt Cook. Pot/kettle/black, IMHO.
maximus (and anyone else who missed it()
The saturday Dominion post had an article from David Johnston who is the head of the joint centre of disasters & calamites some such (can’t recall the exact name) He was highlighting the threat of a Tsunami to the south coast of wellington as the trench is deep and an earthquake just to the south would have the potential to create a huge tsunami.
I think in the A section possibly page 5 or 6?
And what if the Airport owners want more land?
Clarke: “the biggest eyesore in Wellington – the now demolished and defaced supermarket site in Mt Cook. Pot/kettle/black, IMHO.”
Reminds me of when the infamous Chase Corp bowled over a large chunk of Courtenay Pl in the mid-1980s – and the site lay vacant for 15 years after they went down with the ’87 Crash.
The post that m-d has written over at the Architectural Centre website is indeed a spirited response. It appears that my descriptions of potential future mall rats as: “fat stodgy bodies in their SUVs, sucking on their super-size-me lard-enhancing bottles of Corporate-Coke suckers” seems to have struck a vein, or possibly an artery in m-d’s body, for he/she has replied that this blog has gone not to the Fish, but to the dogs:
“Disappointingly, it is knee-jerk culturally-elitist pompous rubbish that alienates the people who are going to be affected by the Rongotai Revived (RR) proposal, and does the cause of good urban design (and more generally, thoughtful socialism), no amount of good in the process. Looking down your nose at the culture of others is called all sorts of terrible things if the cultures are of another creed/race/sexual orientation/etc – so why is it ok to diss the activities of the majority of the lower and middle classes with so much blathering arrogance?? The disappointing thing about the EotF blog post (other than lowering the tone of their blog – which is their right), is that it counters a logical argument with shrill rhetoric. Its only form of evidence employed is speculation, which lo-and-behold, supports their argument to a tee. The days of the carefully crafted position of WellUrban (which EotF is the nominal replacement for) are sorely missed indeed…”
Aah yes, again with the plea for the return of WellUrban. I quite agree. Unfortunately, he’s taking a well-deserved rest right now. In the mean time, I’d encourage you to read the rest of m-d’s equally shrill rhetoric and drop him a line of your own thoughts at:
despite my occassional comparisons of you to infamous murdering sociopaths, thank you for stepping up into the role. This is a welcome website, and while some of the topic matter is not interesting to me (sea stuff…i grew up in the middle of a large continent, in the mountains, 2000 km from the ocean, so the boat stuff kind of goes over my head.
Keep it up though.
BTW- do you take requests?
Thanks jayseatee, and thanks also to m-d. The main point of this blog is a venue where people can comment on urban matters, and that doesn’t mean its just us here at EOTF that should comment. We welcome comments from all of you, and yes, of course we’ll take requests, although we won’t play “Sweet Home Alabama” if that’s what you were after…. although, by the sounds of it, you need to sit down with an album of Rod Stewart and listen to “Sailing” to get you more in the mood.
I admit though, that occasionally my predisposition towards hyperbole and alliteration can be irritating in the extreme, even if it is amusing only to me, and while I have a terrible propensity to sweep vast swathes of people together in unjustifiable generalisations, I’d still stand by my statement that:
“…Wellington has more than enough shops selling cheaply made tacky chinese tat, such as bobble-headed plastic nick-nacks, thousands of ill-fitting shoes and baggy sweatshirts for gormless youths, hideously decorated ’boutiques’ for banal brides-to-be, bogus bogan bandanas for bored and boring beat boys, and a plethora of bad-fast-food bars which process barn-fed chickens through a life of corn-fed hell into a simulacrum of saggy ’spicy’ burgers. ”
I still think that Wellington has quite enough shops as it is, and don’t believe we’re grossly under-supplied with shops as RR are claiming. But then, being a Fish, I’ve never quite understood that human (female) tendency to want to buy hundreds of pairs of shoes…..
and while I’m on the thank you list, obviously there is a far larger list of people to thank, including the regulars like Starkive, Robyn, Rondo, Seamonkey Madness, Mobsta, Erentz, DavidP, Alex, Jason, 60mPA, DeepRed – and many more – many of whom have their own websites: DeepRed in particular who posts to the Skyscraper City forum: far better than me on the picture posting of buildings under construction. Thanks to you all, and we welcome your feedback – and would welcome even more feedback from those timid architects out there too afraid to speak up.
Their numbers are interesting indeed. They do seem to have neglected to collect any statistics on central city shopping. I wonder what percentage of shoppers in Wellington city are from the Hutt and Porirua. I suggest we take all those who’ve signed the petition on a field trip to Christchurch. I know they have a vastly different topography to the capital but one visit to their ailing city centre is enough to convince anyone of the evils of too many suburban shopping centres. Let us keep the life in our city centre by limiting the tack-touting bargain-barns in the burbs.
I disagree with your appraisal of Wellington’s retail riches. We don’t have many shops because the population doesn’t support them.
Having an abundance of gorm – I don’t see the appeal of ill-fitting shoes or baggy sweatshirts either – I do agree with your assessment of the nature of retail that can be found in the Rongotai complex, and perceive no value for Wellington in allowing it, especially when so much inner-city retail space is available. However, the policy of protecting retail vibrancy pushes rent and demand for that inner-city retail space up, meaning the big chains are more likely to be able to afford to set up there, and smaller enterprises may struggle.
The scale and dynamic of Wellington, as opposed to, say, Auckland, dictates that we will have only a small number of destinations for each shop, instead of ten or more in Auckland. When someone says they are going to Just Jeans, you can be pretty certain they’ll be on Lambton Quay.
The Rongotai proposal will draw consumers away from the already declining inner-city retail area (see the five or six vacant Willis St. units, for example, or Cuba/Dixon Streets/The Oaks &c.) and will actually result in fewer shops in the City.
This business lobby works on the principle that Residential, Commercial(Office), and Commercial(Retail) should be separate. This allows retail to be larger and built on cheaper land, which allows economies of scale. It also allows a force similar to a planet’s gravitational pull. The size, in itself, becomes a drawcard for shoppers. In addition to that, the force brings in satellites in the form of smaller retail outlets or services, making the destination more appealing and drawing even more shoppers. It is a proven business model throughout the world and this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Unfortunately, this model has costs, which are rarely borne by the retailers or the developers. There are the easy to measure resource costs, such as traffic, fuel, land, and materials. There are the more difficult to measure environmental costs (which are also caused by the incidental material factors already mentioned). There are aesthetic costs – though these will be debated by architects forever, and there are the impossible to measure social costs. There are plenty of places to sit, alone or with friends, in large retail centres. You can pay to sit at a cafe, or you can sit facing out over a carpark. Be careful, though, as this is private property, and you will likely be removed if throwing a ball around or talking too loudly. (For example, my younger brother and I, waiting upstairs at Reading Courtenay, in that dead area next to the Hog’s Breath, had a small soft rugby ball confiscated by staff, as we were throwing it to each other from about two metres apart.)
These costs are borne by the city and the community, and are the reason that Council has implemented their urban design standards to limit, or at least facilitate discussion and diligence for, this sort of development.
All that said, the area could be better used. What about a sports centre?
and also – I forgot to second jayseatee’s appreciation of eotf. thanks!
I’m not sure exactly which 5 or 6 empty retail spots on willis you’re referring – keep in mind that several of those are specifically vacant due to planned development, not economic times.
I do disagree about the notion that there is only so much retail that the city can support. This tends be to be viewed a zero-sum scenario when statistics that I’ve seen actually support something more similar to the phenomenon seen with roads – more roads = more cars. I have been looking for the statistic that I have seen and I cannot for the life of me find it, but it was a graph that showed the amount of retail area per person in various countries. Of course the US lead by a factor 10 times higher than the next countries, but the fact that there is not a set number of area per person indicates that it is a variable open to manipulation. Obviously several of the factors are credit policy, consumer nature of the culture, etc, but it is a malleable factor.
I have seen this happen in a variety of settings – small urban neighbourhoods which have been down on their luck, one person opens an interesting shop, pretty soon someone else opens another shop and shortly there after there is a thriving district. What intrigues me is the opportunity for these districts to develop unique identities which would not develop else where. I think we can all see the direction that willis/lambton quay is going – which is toward generic chain stores – this is partly due to the increased rents that a premier address demands – which is why we saw shops like Man to Man abandon Willis street. What has happened is that there is now an interesting little enclave with Man to Man, world, Trade Aid, etc. Similarly the boutique shopping section which has developed around customhouse quay/featherston, etc is enhancement of the urban vibrancy. As I understand the history of Wellington planning, the attempt was to confine everything to lambton quay, but what we are now seeing is a bleeding into the grid, creating interesting pockets to explore. The other aspect is that the generic chain shops aren’t competing with the likes of the new boutiques, nor the more urban wear shops that appear on cuba.
In a larger sense however, Wellington desperately needs to rethink it’s urban design concept. Lambton quay is a ghost town after 6pm. I hardly would describe the atmosphere of lambton quay to be that of a vibrant city centre, once the shops close. There needs to be more mix of housing and restaurants/bars throughout the city, not confined to one ghetto of the city. In addition, basically every neighbourhood in the city, with the exception of kilbirnie, island bay, newtown, and miramar, are severely lacking on requirements for daily living. More effort should be made to provide pedestrian friendly retail areas that include real grocery stories, a pharmacy, dry cleaners, a small hardware store, cafes (what is it with this city that it is impossible to find a real locally owned small hardware store?)
I think there are a lot of myths about wellington that the public have bought into – 1 is that the city is immensely walkable. (true of only the centre city), 2) is that there is great public transit – waiting for a bus that is 20 minutes late with no other options is hardly great public transit, 3) is a sense of overall urban vitality – there are pockets that distribute true 24/7 urban vitality – cuba street being the best example, but most of the others either become ghost towns or become chaotic drunken melees after certain hours. I’m not trashing wellington, as I do like it, but I do think people should challenge the oft repeated refrains about our wonderful assets and really question whether they are providing what we claim they are.
Sorry, one thing to add.
as for the oaks…
I don’t think there is a rent low enough, or a venture vibrant enough to rescue that dire environment.
The failure of the oaks I don’t believe to be about the inability of wellingtonians to support retail.
Greetings EOTF – this text (below) is posted on behalf of Cr Andy Foster.
Richard MacLean – WCC Communications
…Good to see the interest in this issue.
However it seems Rongotai Revived has slightly missed what Wellington City Council is proposing. The Council is not proposing to prevent ‘big-box’ retail in what we are calling ‘work centres’ like Rongotai. We absolutely understand that there is a shortage of space for these kind of activities because of Wellington’s topography. Most of the big-box retail activities like garden centres, DIY, furniture etc aren’t usually sited in established suburban centres. Most of them are used for periodic visits only rather than daily use. The main things things we are looking to limit in work areas are the high-frequency visit/foot traffic generators like supermarkets or department stores which we want to see as the cornerstones of our established town centres (like Kilbirnie and Miramar). Taking those out of town centres is likely to see the viability of these centres – as hearts of their communities – being undermined and replaced by a much more car-dependent retail environment because it will be harder to do a variety of frequent-trip activities (ie the bank, post office, library, small retail shop activities) at the same time as your supermarket visit.
The other element of concern we have is that ‘industrial’ activity is also being pushed out by higher-priced activities – including residential. Such activity includes couriers, office servicing, catering, panelbeating, distribution etc, all of which are important to the city. To pick up Rongotai Revisited’s theme, we would not want Wellingtonians to have to drive long distances to access those kinds of services because there is no land available to them in Wellington City.
Also it’s worth saying that the stuff about abattoirs and quarries is also scaremongering – as several bloggers have already commented. On that logic at the moment those activities that do occur in ‘suburban centres’ (ie the meatworks and quarries in the Ngauranga Gorge ‘suburban centre’) could equally occur in any other suburban centre – not just Rongotai South. Why don’t they ? Well aside from the obvious that they aren’t of sufficiently high value, dollar-wise, to do that, they would also fail a host of other rules in the Plan – think noise, heavy traffic, emissions etc.
The final point to make is that in many ways this proposal is a return to the planning regime prior to the 1994 District Plan when Wellington City did have a range of industrial and retail areas. In 1994, for the sake of simplfying the Plan, these were all merged into one ‘suburban centre’ zone, which treated, for example, Ngaio village and Ngauranga Gorge as if they were the same. This current proposal recognises that they aren’t.
Submissions on the pre-consultation on the review of the whole residential and suburban centre chapters of the District Plan close next Wednesday 1 April. After that the submissions will be analysed and changes made in response. The aim is to formally notify Plan Changes around Aug – Sept this year, giving a formal opportunity to make submissions. I encourage people to let us know what you think – the things you agree with, and those you don’t. When it comes to the formal notification/submission process you do have to be in to have an influence. We’ll keep you informed on the process.
We are always happy to try to answer any questions.
Cr Andy Foster
Transport and Urban Development Leader
Wellington City Council
Hmm, the website died and deleted my post.
I have seen that statistic as well, and believe that it referred to retail floor area rather than number of shops. It may also have included car parking space. A large AnythingMart, built, cheaply, on low value real estate, might have the equivalent retail area to the total of every shop in, say, Otaki.
I do agree that there are a number of other variables, and that Wellington could support more retail (though I believe that it will be the result of a combination of a. careful planning; and b. looking the other way while Wellington Company, Bond-Willis et al, have their way with a few spots).
The spirit of my argument was more that private/commercial suburban centres, such as the Rongotai complex, which have catchments larger than a few suburbs, and which don’t have the supporting infrastructure like bus routes, compete with the CBD for traffic.
Importantly, and I didn’t mention this in my original post – much of which I would like to reword, having read your post, jayseatee – the city bears the costs of providing infrastructure, traffic management, &c. for the private suburban centre. This is fine, as that is what the city council corporation is for, but it is inefficient, as they have already provided expensive infrastructure, transport, amenities &c. for a central business district.
This is not an argument against suburban centres with small catchments. Kilbirnie and Miramar have appropriate catchments, except for the Pak’n Save, which draws people and their vehicles from throughout the city (Wellington could definitely support a few more supermarkets, but I would prefer the return of butchers, bakers, groceries.)
I almost missed this: “I think there are a lot of myths about wellington that the public have bought into…”
We may have our disagreements, but this is perhaps the most salient ‘expose’ I have come across – I totally agree with everything in that paragraph, and furthermore, see continued adherence to these myths as a potential source of complacency that could well end up disastrously if we don’t attempt to move beyond them…
I have nothing to add to this extensive debate, other than…. don’t dis Berhampore! It’s cool. Newtown is the new Te Aro, and B-pore, as my family and I like to call it, is right next door. I’m sure if some matter of importance occurred Berhampore-ites would rise up.
By the way, which I selected ‘submit comment’ your website said I had failed to enter a valid email address. I was telling lies! I had to re-enter (and remember) my comment again which was a bit annoying.
Note that the original leaky home developer in Wellington (16-18 Hobson Street), Eyal Aharoni is one of those behind the petition.He walked away from that one and left a trail of misery dodging his responsibility there. He just can be trusted. Ignore and/or dont support anything he is behind or get burnt.
I have posted this on the rongotairevisited site but it is unlikely to be published. My coomen tan be easily verified by the residents at the address given above.
Kerryn – sorry ! Don’t know what happened there. Always keen to hear news of life in Berhampore… But the computer always knows when you’re telling lies…. ;-)
Yeah Right – you’re correct that Aharoni has his fair share of bad publicity, but I think he is trying hard to do good in the community. Check out the story in the Wellingtonian: “Rongotai revolt – Shopping centre stymied”
By JIM CHIPP – The Wellingtonian 1-04-09
“Concerned Rongotai business people have rallied enormous public support in their stand against a city council proposal to re-zone a largely abandoned industrial area. The Rongotai Revived group claims that the council’s District Plan change designating blocks of the suburb a “work area” will stymie much-needed retail development and allow industry, including hazardous activities, next door to schools, homes and shops. However, Wellington City Council urban development and transport portfolio leader Andy Foster said that the group had misinterpreted the plan change and that most of the activities it was advocating would still be allowed. The plan change follows the council’s Centres Policy, which seeks to protect the city’s Golden Mile retail area and existing suburban centres.
“The contentious space is between Kingsford-Smith St and Lyall Bay Pde, and bordering Rongotai College. Currently zoned “suburban centre”, it once housed National Radiators and Holyoake Industries, but is now severely underused. Some buildings are in use with new retail businesses, such as a carpet shop, stationery supplier and cafe, but much of it is not. The group has polled the southern and eastern suburbs residents and businesses in the last fortnight and by Tuesday had registered 2630 signatures in support of its stand against the council’s plan, and four against. Council urban development strategic advisor Paul Kos said the council was proposing to make Rongotai a “Work Area” to ensure there was sufficient land to accommodate light industrial, business and larger retail activities. Residential and some retail land uses would not be permitted as of right, and would require a resource consent. The council was keen to avoid creating another centre to compete with Kilbirnie……”
There’s further articles in the local papers, both for and against the Rongotai Revived campaign. Andy Foster has his reply here:
where he says:
“Council not willing to pit Rongotai against Kilbernie
Wellington city councillor Andy Foster responds to criticism by Rongotai Revived spokesman Richard Mazur of the council’s plans for Rongotai. If the lobby group Rongotai Revived is to be believed, Wellington faces a shopping crisis based on the city council’s desire to turn an area of land near the airport into an industrial wasteland. Not surprisingly, the council is eager to pick apart this myth, which has been aggressively cultivated by Rongotai Revived in the past couple of months.
We have just completed an extensive consultation on a draft amendment to the district plan. This crux of the proposed change is based on the fact that at present we have one planning zone and one set of rules that cover all the city’s commercial areas – including town centres, industrial areas, small neighbourhood shopping areas – and that this no longer works properly. All these areas have different characters and different needs – and we want to better manage them. In the case of Rongotai, we propose that this should continue to be an area of mixed uses, including light industrial, services such as motels, and some retail, particularly “big- box” stores.
One thing the council is clear on is that we don’t want Rongotai to develop into another town centre. The Kilbirnie town centre is within walking distance, and the council has invested much public money in facilities such as the regional aquatic centre, community centre, library, and council housing to serve the eastern and southern suburbs. These facilities work because they are in and around a town centre that has a strong retail core (supermarkets and high-street stores) and are easy to get to by public transport, walking and by car.
Long-standing international precedent shows that if we create another competing town centre in Rongotai, we are likely to undermine the viability of the Kilbirnie and Miramar town centres. This is why we are planning to carefully consider any proposals for “town centre uses” such as supermarkets and department stores in Rongotai. Though Rongotai Revived has run an effective public relations campaign in the past couple of months, it is worth querying some of its more blatant assertions.
The first is that Rongotai is the council’s preferred location for “noxious” activities such as abattoirs and quarries. This is not true. It is clearly not suitable for these types of uses and there are no proposed changes to the rules in this regard. Secondly, it asserts that the council is forcing shoppers to shop outside Wellington city’s boundaries as we have not provided enough opportunity for retail activities to locate here. Wellington has a range of shopping opportunities, a major centre in the central business district and several large town centres and smaller neighbourhood centres. What we don’t yet have is a major shopping mall (this situation may change, however, with advanced proposals to build one of the largest malls in the country in Johnsonville).
This is the main reason people travel outside the city’s boundaries to shop in Lower Hutt and Porirua. The other major reason given for long-distance shopping is the lack of large-format retailing. We believe Rongotai is appropriate for this “big box” shopping. The council’s other main motivation for proposing a “work area” commercial zone for part of Rongotai is based on the concern that industrial use is being pushed out of Wellington City by higher- priced activities, such as apartments and townhouses built in commercial zones. Space for general commercial or industrial activity, including, but not limited to, light manufacturing, courier bases, office servicing, catering, vehicle repairs and panelbeating, is now at a premium in Wellington City. That’s why we want to designate the work areas in the district plan to make it possible for such activities to continue.
In many ways the proposal to create a “work area” zone in Rongotai is a return to the planning regime of before the 1994 district plan, when Wellington had a range of areas specifically zoned for industrial or retail use. In 1994, for the sake of simplifying the plan, these were all merged into one “suburban centre” zone, which treated, for example, Ngaio village, the Ngauranga Gorge commercial area and Rongotai as if they were the same. The new “work area” proposal recognises that they are not.
The proposal for Rongotai would see it continue to provide space for much-needed business uses and larger retail stores, such as home-improvement stores, whiteware retailers, garden centres, trade supplies, and furniture and carpet stores. Groups such as Rongotai Revived, along with the general public, can formally comment on the Rongotai proposal when it is publicly notified about August or September. Before that, we are starting work on the Kilbirnie town centre plan, which will improve the town centre. Public submissions will be sought on the proposal next month.
* Andy Foster is the Wellington City Council’s urban development and transport portfolio leader.
But of course this is just a response against Richard Mazur’s assertion that the “Council’s forcing us back in time” also featured here in the Dom Post:
“Businessman Richard Mazur believes proposed council planning changes could drive businesses out of Wellington’s suburbs to the Hutt and Porirua. Here he explains why. Wellington comes a poor third to Auckland and Christchurch in providing its residents with shopping choice. Yet Wellington City Council’s rezoning proposals, designed to protect the golden mile and existing suburban centres, seem set on keeping it that way by imposing new restrictions on future retail developments. An analysis of the major cities shows that Wellington has 50 per cent less shopping centre space per head of population than Auckland and two-thirds less than Christchurch.
Research commissioned by Rongotai Revived, the group I represent which is seeking to develop an eight-hectare site near the airport, shows that Wellingtonians leave their city in droves to shop in the Hutt and Porirua. This comes at a cost of fuel and time and takes more than $300 million a year in retail spending to these areas. Our recent survey of eastern and southern suburb residents, who are the worst affected because they have further to travel to go shopping, shows that most would much rather shop closer to home and create jobs for locals. Clearly the CBD and existing suburban centres are not benefiting from their spending, anyway. Why should it be so hard to allow areas such as Rongotai to develop?
Rongotai, with its flat land and rundown buildings near the airport and Lyall Bay beach, is ripe for development. Current zoning allows a mix of retail, commercial and residential use. The council is proposing to take this away to control retail growth and to encourage more industrial use. This applies to all commercial areas, not just Rongotai. A change to the proposed work zoning will force Rongotai back to a previous era of decay. Like many other business people in the area, I want to invest in developing the derelict site across the road from the new Rongotai Retail Park.
But the council’s vision for Rongotai is vastly different to ours. Our vision is of a vibrant area supporting the community with more shopping options, better use of the beach and beachfront – an area of a calibre to support the proposed marine education centre. The council appears to want more industry in the area, a futile attempt judging by past experience. Its proposed work zone near the airport is designed to encourage industries like battery recyclers and panel beaters. Such industries could set up as of right with no need for a resource consent or to consult nearby residents and schools.
Community facilities, hotels, theatres, food stores and supermarkets would not be allowed without a resource consent. Large-scale retailers looking to put super-stores and free car parks on the site would be faced with so many restrictions on what they could sell and requirements for resource consents that they are likely to go elsewhere, probably the Hutt and Porirua. I CAME to Rongotai in 1998. At the time the area was spiralling into disuse with a large number of empty buildings in various states of dilapidation. There was no spending on properties and despite the zoning being attractive for small businesses and factory use, they didn’t come.
I watched the area being slowly abandoned year by year as existing businesses shifted to areas such as Seaview and Grenada, which offered better access for trucks and had buildings that offered better stud heights. It got to the point where the factory and warehouse spaces couldn’t be given away. Some attracted what can only be described as hoodlums who could rent a whole factory for $100 per week month to month. They poured oil into the stormwater system, raced cars up and down the streets, did wheelies everywhere and tagged everything in sight. Rongotai had reached the bottom of its cycle and was an awful place to be.
But slowly things began to change. Under the current zoning, Rongotai is evolving into an area frequented by and serving the public. New businesses like the gymnasium and the beachfront motel are a direct response to public needs. More than 100,000 tourists have stayed at the motel in the past five years, mostly Australians. Roads are wide, parking is plentiful and we have a beautiful beach and the airport on our doorstep. Rongotai is in a whole different cycle now. We don’t want the city council to force it back in time.
Rongotai Revived found no evidence to support the conclusion drawn by the council that Kilbirnie retailers would be hurt by the continued growth of Rongotai Retail Park. We don’t dispute that one or two businesses in Kilbirnie are suffering, but that’s because they are the types of retail that are suffering everywhere for failing to evolve to meet customers’ changing expectations. A city councillor said at a recent meeting that the council knew some businesses were hurting because the local record shop was forced to close. But nationally and internationally this is an industry affected by internet sales of CDs and instantly downloadable songs, even to your cellphone. Do we then blame cellphones and ban telecommunications to protect these retailers? Obviously not.
* Richard Mazur is a director of Resource Holdings NZ and a member of Rongotai Revived.
and of course, if Rongotai Revived want to contact us, they can just add their comments here on the Blog. That’s what it’s for.
However there is a consistent stream of mis-information coming out of the RR group, about the abattoirs and scrap-metal merchants that may / could / would get set up if ‘the Council gets its way’. If you look at Mazur’s and Foster’s comments up there (from this week, so that’s after the cutoff date for comment to the Council), Mazur says: “…Its proposed work zone near the airport is designed to encourage industries like battery recyclers and panel beaters. Such industries could set up as of right with no need for a resource consent or to consult nearby residents and schools. ”
and Foster replied with: “… that Rongotai is the council’s preferred location for “noxious” activities such as abattoirs and quarries. This is not true. It is clearly not suitable for these types of uses and there are no proposed changes to the rules in this regard. ”
But if both the Council and RR seem to be agreeing in promoting that the area is suitable for Big-Box retailing – if so, then really, what are they disagreeing about? To me it seems to come down to one thing really: that Council does not wish for yet another Supermarket in the area (with Countdown, and Woolworths already in Kilbirnie), and (ok, two things really): that Council wishes the Resource Consent process for these Big Boxes to be brought under the tighter control of the Resource Consent process.
Is that such a bad thing? Is it really so painful to have to employ some decent architects to try and make the box look big, rather than just go for the cheapest Boxers who have tended to produce such awful sheds around the country? And probably more so than the sheds alone, the Council wants the urban area around the big box retail to be a carefully considered and good looking, well-crafted thing. But then that is what the RR is doing anyway, right? They’ve got lovely little pictures of carefully growing planted areas and paving and people sitting happily outdoors – what’s wrong with that?