News | 22 April 2022

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.

Two people point and read printed copies of City Voice paper on a presentation board.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster has fond memories of City Voice from early in his Council career.

“City Voice was a quality paper. It was always 100 per cent professional while run on a shoestring by people dedicated to bringing valuable, accurate local news to our city and allowing citizens to have a voice. Editor Simon Collins exemplified that with his incredible work ethic, professionalism, and service.

“The newspaper always encouraged debate and response. I recall many good back-and-forward debates in the letters columns – and even got involved in a few!

“City Voice always focused on playing the issues, not the people. I took a quick look back at some files and the first example I found was City Voice’s report on its own 500-person survey about waterfront issues, at the height of community debate on those issues.

“Their report was headlined ‘Wellingtonians split over waterfront,’ and detailed what the survey found. That’s the kind of fair, accurate, reporting I remember City Voice for. City Voice’s tag line ‘news you can use,’ was so apt.

“I am thrilled that our library team have digitised nearly 400 editions of City Voice. They capture an important part of our city’s history.”

Pukehinau Lambton Ward Councillor Iona Pannett, who stepped into launch the digital collection at an event on 26 May as Mayor Foster recovers from Covid, says City Voice marked one of her first forays into political activism.

“I was concerned that City Voice accepted advertising from a sex shop that sold material which objectified women. Editor Simon Collins was very responsive to these concerns and the paper changed its policy.

“It was that attitude which made City Voice such a vital part of the community. It was fair, fearless and strived to include a diversity of voices and opinions. It punched above its weight and was well ahead of its time.”

City Voice founding editor Simon Collins says the paper aimed to give ordinary Wellingtonians a voice on the issues that concerned them, and to provide the information they needed to get involved in those issues and in the life of the city generally.

“We tried to open the paper to everyone, not just the rich and powerful elite who dominate the 'news' in the mainstream, commercial media.

"We set up the paper as a worker-owned cooperative so that it would be run by and for everyone who worked for it, not just for the investors who generously invested in it. 

"More than 20 years after the paper closed in June 2001, it's wonderful to see it being made available to the world digitally! I hope that it might still be an inspiration for others. We still can create media that work for ordinary people, and we, the people, can use the media to get involved in our community and in the world."

Gabor Toth presenting to a room of people in front of a projector screen which has an image of City Voice on it.
Wellington City Libraries History Specialist Gábor Tóth.

Nick Bollinger says being part of the group that founded City Voice was incredibly exciting, and unlike any other work he’s ever done.

“Everything had to be done from scratch, from deciding what the mission of the paper was going to be, to designing its co-operative structure. It was driven by shared ideals and high principles.

“Though there were endless difficulties trying to make ends meet, and constant debates about what we were doing right or wrong, the feeling that we were truly giving a voice to a community, creating something where it hadn’t existed before, was intensely satisfying.

And what a great bunch of people to work with! Kind, creative, eccentric, driven, and deeply bonded by a common cause,” Mr Bollinger says.

Wellington City Libraries History Specialist Gábor Tóth says the scanning of City Voice issues started in June 2021 and took almost a year to complete. It was an involved process.

“With the oldest copies nearly 30 years old, the newsprint was yellowing and brittle with ‘acid burns’ along the crease through the middle where the copies were folded. This meant each page scan had to be individually straightened, cropped and contrast adjusted. Library date-stamps, graffiti, rips and tears were then digitally erased.

“It was a time-consuming process but we were determined to get each copy looking as good as it did when it hit the newsstands.”

Mr Tóth was assisted in his work by Paige Garner who was employed under the New Zealand Libraries Partnership Programme – a Covid-related assistance scheme administered by the National Library.

All scanned copies of City Voice are available to view under the Collections tab on Wellington City Recollect – the online heritage platform of Wellington City Libraries.