‘It’s a city, not a museum’: Wellington Council approves district plan

Wellington City Councilors have approved a proposed district plan which will be subject to public consultation.

The council has removed an affordable housing chapter from the district plan entirely, meaning developers will not be required to include affordable housing in new developments.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The structural future of the city has been the subject of consultation and debate for three years.

Thousands of people have submitted various stages of the plan, which marks the first time Wellington’s planning regulations have been changed in over 20 years.

The proposed district plan also takes into account the government’s higher density rules coming into force later this year, which will allow three three-storey houses without consent.

The plan aims to ensure that the capital can accommodate its growing population through housing scaling up with between 50,000 and 80,000 people expected to move to the capital over the next 30 years.

Numerous controversial changes were made to the plan throughout the day, as councilors debated several amendments after asking planners questions.

Notably, the council decided that the Johnsonville rail line would no longer be included in the rapid transit line.

It also removed an affordable housing chapter from the district plan entirely, meaning developers will not be required to include affordable housing in new developments.

All but two councilors rejected the provision which would have made it mandatory for developers to either include affordable housing in 10% of any new housing development in parts of the city or to make a financial contribution to new units affordable.

“I am deeply disappointed with this amendment,” said Chair and Councilor Iona Pannett.

“And moreover, it leaves us with nothing that can actually provide us with affordable housing. I also think that we all have to pay for affordable housing. The developers have to pay, we as taxpayers, ratepayers and residents all have to pay” she says.

In the proposal, developments within 15 minutes of town could be raised to six stories. Councilors today voted to reduce this to 10 minutes from town.

There have been no changes to the maximum building heights for Te Aro.

Two councilors, Sean Rush and Liz Kelly, changed their votes on key issues like the Johnsonville rail line at the eleventh hour.

Councilors also discussed heritage protection. Most of those who submitted the plan were in favor of intensification, while many expressed concerns that heritage and cultural values ​​would not be adequately protected.

Councilors rejected an amendment to the plan – proposed by Mayor Andy Foster – to restore character protections which were stripped last year.

Councilwoman Rebecca Matthews was among those who voted against Foster’s candidacy.

“You can’t keep all the best land forever. We’ve saved a significant amount of it, but we can’t save 90 percent for single-family homes,” Matthews said.

“It’s a city, not a museum.”

East Ward Councilor Teri O’Neill expressed her frustration with the day’s results to her fellow councillors.

“This has potentially been one of the biggest cumulative time-wasters this council has undertaken,” she said.

“Young people don’t ask for much – we just want to be housed – and I’m really, really disappointed with the people in this town who say they’re planning an ambitious future or a livable future because you just walked into the l within a year,” she continues.

“It’s such a shame that in an election year two councilors changed their votes on character and our mayor stepped back at the helm of what was once a progressive housing plan.”

The district plan will likely go out for public consultation in July or August.

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