News | 22 April 2022
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Finishing touches to Farmers Lane upgrade

Farmers Lane is to undergo its final stage of upgrade work next week, with the renovations celebrating the area’s history and making the city centre safer and more walkable.

Artist impression of the new Farmers Lane, showing a large concrete area, seating and planting boxes.

A collaboration between Wellington City Council and Cornerstone Property Group, this upgrade includes newly completed road design work, improved lighting, additional seating and planted elements.

Farmers Lane connects Lambton Quay to The Terrace and is currently used by between 700 to 800 people per day.  

With more people living, working, and playing in the central city, we are developing, improving and rejuvenating our public spaces for all to enjoy, says Mayor Andy Foster.

“This upgrade is part of our wider Laneways programme which also includes the transformations of Bond, Eva, Leeds, Egmont streets and Lombard Lane, and the current improvements to Holland and Garrett streets, and Swan Lane. 

“It’s also been an important part of this entire project to acknowledge the heritage of the area by incorporating elements of the site’s history into the design and functionality.”

The seating and planting elements will include imagery in relation to Kumutoto Pā, which occupied the site in the 1800s. 

The design was developed in collaboration with Peter Jackson (Te Āti Awa) with the aim to encourage people to spend more time in the area and enjoy the lane while recognising the site’s history. 

A newly completed road design lifts the road level to become one surface from Lambton Quay to the beginning of the steps leading to The Terrace, creating a wider pedestrian space and room for the new seating and planting elements.  

Chief Planning Officer Liam Hodgetts says the collaboration with Cornerstone Property Group and designs from Etch Architects has been beneficial for all partners. 
“The partnership began in 2019 with the aim to improve the quality of the existing thoroughfare and activate the edge of Farmers Lane to help give the businesses more activity and see this area flourish.

“Also, this area is significant for Māori as it was part of Kumutoto Pā which extended north to what is now Bowen Street.

“We embrace diversity and cultural cohesiveness in the capital, and celebrating our heritage is integral to this kaupapa. It’s also important to be reminded of where we’ve come from, as we’re moving on.”

There will be limited access to Farmers Lane from Tuesday 26 April from 5pm to end of the day Friday 29 April.

This project is part of Wellington City Council’s Laneway Strategy, which looks to transform the city centre into a more walkable capital. 

History of Farmers Lane and Kumutoto Pā

The area of Farmers Lane was part of Kumutoto Pā which extended north to what is now Bowen Street. The pā was established in 1824-25 by Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama who were part of the Nihoputa migration from Taranaki.  

From circa 1830, Kumutoto Pā became the central flax-collection point in a network of flax stations up and down the East Coast of the North Island. Kumutoto Stream entered Wellington harbour at the intersection of Woodward Street and Lambton Quay. 

The area of Farmers Lane lies within the three-and-a-half acres bought by flax-trader David Scott from Pomare Ngātata in March 1831. Scott fenced the site and built warehouses and dwellings.

Following the 1835 Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama migration to the Chatham Islands, Te Atiawa chief Wi Tako Ngātata and approximately fifty Te Āti Awa iwi members moved to Kumutoto Pā.  

When the steps were formed in 1881, the area was named York Lane but a few years later it became Tokio Lane. However, there was strong distaste for that name during World War II resulting in another name change in 1942 to Farmers Lane – as a farmer’s organisation was in the vicinity.

New Zealand's displeasure with Japan gradually abated and from 1981 there were several unsuccessful attempts to have the name Farmers Lane changed to Tokyo Lane. Instead, in 2009, an unnamed walkway from Bolton Street to the Clifton Terrace cable car station was named Tokyo Lane.

The new name celebrated the 55th anniversary of the establishment of the Embassy of Japan and the 50th anniversary of the Japan Society of Wellington. A plaque was installed in 2012.