The Wellington City Council must have known it was going to be picking a hard road to go down when it proposed Variation 11, and sure enough, the District Plan change is due to go to appeal at the Environment Court. Most of our readers will know about it: it’s a variation to permit buildings of a certain size to be constructed on the waterfront, without having to go through the publicly-notified Resource Consent stage. At present, of course, there’s a much more public-friendly situation in place: that every building higher than ground level will require to be notified – which means that you, the public, gets to have a potential say in everything that happens.
As a PR exercise, it seems the golden hands and tongue of Richard MacLean were not wrapped around this Variation, as it has foundered badly. After being proposed to the public, it got a fairly resounding 48 out of 49 firm NO thanks from the public, with the only YES please being from Wellington Waterfront itself. Still, the Council, possibly pushing shit uphill, gave it a vote of approval so that it could go sailing through. Would anyone have the energy and the financial backing to oppose it? They wagered that after the trouncing that was handed out to the neighsayers over the OPT, no one would be willing to object.
As it turns out, the aged self-appointed defenders of the last remaining areas of untainted carparks on the waterfront, the rabid grannies of Waterfront Watch, have obligingly stepped up and said, in a very predictable voice “No thanks, We Don’t Like It !” They do have a point, although most of the rest of the city has got tired of hearing them say it – the public should be able to have its say, and to take away that right is undemocratic. Instead, the Council was hoping to put some certainty into the process for potential developers for the last 3 sites at north Kumutoto, which would have helped their marketing of the sites and even got the long-alleged Hilton brand its desired waterfront watching suite of rooms. Pauline Swann, the exhausting but un-exhaustable head of the Watchers, has said in the Capital Times this week that:
“the group has won two out of its three appeals over the years. “We’re always confident,” she says. “We’re passionate about the waterfront, as are our friends.” Swann says huge community support indicates the appeal is the right thing to do.”
Personally I’m not sure how accurate that claim of “huge community support” is, as I’ve certainly not seen any poll results, or even heard of any poll being taken. It’s a case of ‘Do or Die’ for Swann and her gang, for if they lose this battle, then they lose even their very reason for existing. Allegedly they even asked other objectors (some of the 47 others) if they would care to share the bill, although it seems that most of the rest did not fancy the battle and were prepared to let the Council get its way.
But what is intriguing is that there are two other objectors to V11 as well. There’s the Historic Places Trust, which I am amazed at their joining in seeing as they are typically as toothless and useless as a slap round the face with a wet flannel.
Update: 2 site 10 images added:
Old Ferry Building – Now you see it…….. ….now you don’t…
But there is also the Queens Wharf Holdings – who I think are arguing the opposite – that the ruling on the V11 (which actually reduced the available build height) was wrong, and that the insistence on public space at ground floor level was too much. Queens Wharf Holdings, (Directors Brian McGuiness and Wendell Phillips) are owners, I think, of some of the existing buildings on Queens Wharf. I’d be intrigued to find out more about their complaints, and their visions for the Waterfront, that apparently advocate less public access rather than more…