It’s good to see that there is a decent amount of interest in urban matters amongst Wellingtonians, with a couple of recent posts sparking off some healthy discussion.  The debate on Manners Mall about the extent of Te Aro Park and the eventual removal of the failed Oaks complex, bought to mind another potential park a bit further up Cuba St.


First brought up by a friend of mine a couple of years ago, and he’s never stopped banging on about it since, there’s a piece of land between Ghuznee and Vivian that is the absolutely perfect place for a park. A park for People, not the ground level park for Cars that it is now. Yes, the small square of asphalt known as the Swan Lane Car Park – that goes through to the Marion St Post Office, has been decreed by some to be the most divine spot possible for a park for people. It’s certainly wasted on the cars that sit there all day seeping oil into the asphalt.



Photos here taken about 8pm at night – the sun has only just left the Square.

There is a lot going for a park in this position, including the general ambience of heritage buildings on 3 sides, interesting apartments on the 4th side; a high pedestrian traffic count past it all day and night long; a goodly proportion to the space (neither too deep nor too wide); and best of all: fantastic sun coverage all day long. It would differ from a park at the Oaks complex by being less windy – the present Te Aro Park can be lovely on a nice sunny day, and a good place to go to eat lunch and (if you should so desire) feed pigeons. But when the wind whips up the waves so loud and the ghost moon sails among the clouds, Te Aro Park really is on the border of being uncomfortably nasty to be in. Coupled with an unhealthy dose of diesel dust and traffic dirt from both north and south of the park, and an awkward narrowing at the prow, the present park is less than useful.


Not so however at the Swan Lane park, seen above here in a photo by Neil Price (thanks Mr Price!) during one of the Cuba Carnivals (thanks Mr Morley-Hall!). Swan Lane absolutely lends itself to being a people place: even if most people don’t know its name, or think it is a recent development. Swan Lane itself has been around a long time, and the site of the present carpark used to house a hotel known as the White Swan Hotel “affectionately and incomprehensibly called by many The Dirty Duck.”  Most recently the land was the site of the Wakefield Hotel, a sign now proudly (yet, somewhat oddly) sported by a nearby sneaker fetish store on Cuba St. The land is protected from the northerly winds by low rise buildings that permit the sun to shaft in over the top providing all day long sunshine. Unfortunately, due to Council lack of foresight and planning, this is going to be at least partially lost by the construction of the Metropol apartments, which as we can see from their own publicity shots, will cause a fair amount of early morning shading into the Square.  


If the Council were to recognise its value now, and start to issue a Plan Change reserving it as to be earmarked as Public Open Space, and protecting the hours of sunlight into it, then Wellington could have a great public space ready for the future. Have a look at these two pictures: 


So what would you rather see in that space: cars, or a place for people?  


It has of course got a place in our hearts as a place for the Carnival – coming up again soon in February 2009, when once more the night time parade will snake its way up Courtenay and Cuba with great floats and dancing and all matters Latin. 


And yes, we know, the Council have only just finished ‘refurbishing’ the limestone pathed jungle of Glover Park, which is ever so close (physically) but ever so far away (emotionally) and has never really felt part of Cuba St at all. Perhaps that’s because it is on the edge of a busy road, perhaps that is because it has the wrong proportions or is surrounded by tall buildings, or perhaps it is just the simple matter that it is not on a route for pedestrians and so is forever doomed to failure. Swan Lane, on the other hand, sits in an intriguing tangle of intersecting lanes and sightlines, through to Marion St, down the back alley to the brothel and the paint shop, or back up Garrett St under the arched building that fronts onto Victoria St. Or perhaps just the tasty treats of Duke Carvell’s, or Floriditas Cafe – scrumptious, both of them. For whatever the reasons, Swan Lane works – all day long. Let’s savour it – and then save it – for the people of Wellington.