A quick link in here for anyone that is interested but as yet have not seen: The SpinOff has announced a War for Wellington, which is doing everything that we here at the Eye of the Fish should have been doing (but of course, he gets paid for his work, but I don’t). It is brilliant, and you should go have a look at it now.

The first real article tackles the difficult subject of the looming District Plan update.

As some of you may guess, I’ve been following along with this for some time, but the tedium of the process will have turned a lot of people off. Joel MacManus puts it like this:

Welcome to the battlefront. This is the War for Wellington, the fight that will determine what kind of city we want to be. Specifically, will there be enough homes for everyone? 

This war is not being fought on a battlefield. It’s being fought over hours and hours of council meetings, in thousands of pages of regulatory documents, and in a long campaign to lobby councillors for critical votes. 

Wellington City Council is writing a new District Plan, which we have described as the single most important document for this city in our lifetime, and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the housing crisis by embracing density and allowing for more apartments and townhouses.

The next two months will be critical. Here’s everything you need to know to follow the War for Wellington.

Absolutely – nailed it. I suspect that as the following days go by, I may well part company with the opinions of Mr MacManus, but that remains to be seen. Is he young and issues drive, aimed firmly at the deleting of excessively large Heritage / Character areas, and thereby theoretically allowing room for more housing – which may or mayn’t have elements of affordability to it. As Joel says, the panel of Commissioners who have been listening to the last several months of feedback will be reporting back after Waitangi Day, on the 7th Feb, and it is only then that we may start to learn what the Panel of Worthies think – and what they propose to be the future of the city. These are the key issues that he identifies:

Centre city height limits
: What should be the maximum height for office buildings and apartments in the middle of town? Should there be any maximum height at all?

Residential height limits: How tall can buildings be in residential neighbourhoods? Should different suburbs have different height limits? 

Character protections: Right now, most of Wellington’s city-fringe suburbs (88% of land parcels in the inner-residential zone) designate as “character areas”. In these areas, demolishing pre-1930s homes without resource consent is prohibited. It is almost certain that the new plan will reduce the size of character areas. The question is: by how much?

What is mass rapid transit? The NPS-UD requires councils to allow six-storey buildings within a walking distance of mass rapid transit station. But what is a mass rapid transit station? Some people have argued the Johnsonville train is too slow to count as “rapid”. And what about Newtown and Island Bay, the site of the now-cancelled light rail, and the busy Number 1 bus route?

What is a walking distance? The NPS-UD doesn’t specify how big a walking distance is. It could be anywhere from a five-minute walk to 20 minutes. The council will have to choose its own definition, and it could make a huge difference to the amount of land that is zoned for apartments. 

Heritage buildings: Any building listed by Heritage New Zealand only becomes protected once it’s added to the District Plan. This plan will decide if any heritage protections get added or removed. 

Viewshafts: These are rules which prevent tall buildings in certain areas if they block views of certain landmarks. Like heritage and character buildings, viewshafts contribute to the city’s aesthetics but restrict the construction of new homes. 

important points to note here are that Wellington rent is so much more than Auckland, and it is very cyclical !

Below is another graph, showing just how much the number of Building Consents has changed since Auckland adopted its Unitary Plan, allowing more density, and Auckland developers responded accordingly, allowing for a few months for architects to girdle their loins and clean off their Rotrings (metaphorically speaking, of course), and design and submit new sets of plans for those brownfield sites.

Here’s another of their graphs, showing how Auckland has changed since they radically changed their Zoning.

As he says, that is not the end there. “Starting on February 7, the Independent Hearings Panel will release recommendations to the council over the course of six briefings. However, councillors are not bound by the panel’s decisions. They can make amendments to the plan, as long as they can win a majority vote at the final meeting on March 14. This is the crucial battleground to watch. Expect to see a lot of wheeling and dealing as councillors try to put their stamp on the plan and get the outcome they want.” I suspect that we at the Fish are going to be talking a lot about this issue over the next month or two. But in the mean time, go to The SpinOff and subscribe, and even donate to them too, while you’re there. It sounds as though Mainstream Western Media has finally found a useful purpose in life, other than as a venue for Click-Bait. Long may this continue. Three cheers to the SpinOff !!!