Mayor Welcomes Overseas Terminal Decision

10 June 2009

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast has welcomed the Environment Court's decision, released today, that gives the go-ahead for the redevelopment of the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) on Wellington's waterfront.

Mayor Prendergast described the decision as a vindication of the move to upgrade and redevelop the OPT. "It's great news for the city - and I look forward to Willis Bond making a start on this very high-profile development."

"While I'm relieved the decision has gone our way, I must say I was always confident that the Court would reject what was in reality a spurious and ill-conceived appeal against the consent granted in May last year."

Mayor Prendergast says the OPT redevelopment would mean the Council is not faced with the bill for the upgrade of the terminal and the wharf it's built on.

Wellington Waterfront Ltd, a Council-controlled organisation, negotiated a $32 million deal in which Willis Bond & Co would pay for a 125-year lease on the wharf and terminal building. Under the company's proposal the building would accommodate apartments on the upper levels and a range of other uses at wharf-level.

The wharf would remain a public space with access to everyone.

The main points of the proposal:

  • Willis Bond & Co would spend some $16 million on repiling and strengthening the 101-year-old wharf on which the OPT sits.
  • Wellington Waterfront Ltd would receive some $16 million in cash and development benefits and improvements.
  • The improvements would include a water-level fishing wharf extension at the seaward end of the terminal, accommodation within the terminal of space for an artist-in-residence, and an upgraded public viewing platform at mezzanine level.

Mayor Prendergast says the upgrade will turn the OPT into "what it was originally meant to be - a destination".

"The Terminal's story has, up to now, been depressing. It was completed in 1964 as a state-of-the-art facility for people travelling by sea - but its days were numbered even as the builders finished work.

"By the end of the '60s people had stopped travelling en masse by sea and instead taken to the air. It's been in a state of limbo for the best part of 40 years. This proposal will rejuvenate that area and bring what should have been quite a magical building back to life."

Mayor Prendergast says Willis Bond, which has developed the Chews Lane site between Willis and Victoria streets, has a "proven performance history".

She says the redevelopment would be a significant challenge because of the need to repile and strengthen the 1906-vintage wharf. The distinctive proportions and maritime imagery of the building itself - including the tall 'spire' - would be retained while the exterior skin and cavernous interior would be completely rebuilt.

Athfield Architects have drawn up designs that retain the strong nautical lines of the building which was designed in the early 1960s by local firm Morton Calder Fowler and Styles. Michael Fowler - who went on to be Wellington Mayor - played a large role in the project.

The selection of a proposed developer of the OPT was carried out in three stages starting in April 2004. Nine proposals were selected from six development teams. These were short-listed to three, from which Willis Bond was selected as the preferred developer in April 2005.

Public feedback on the Willis Bond proposal was sought in May and June 2006 as part of the Waterfront Development Subcommittee approval process. Seventy-four submissions were received. There was general support for the design concept.

An independent assessment of the wharf has confirmed that it is in poor condition and in need of seismic strengthening and that if this is not addressed in the next 20 years, further deterioration will render the wharf unsafe. "The Willis Bond proposal accepts full responsibility for the necessary repair of the wharf and in so doing relieves Council of the cost."

Wellington Waterfront would retain control of the remaining perimeter of the wharf to ensure ongoing obligations to the Chaffers Marina and CentrePort (berthing of vessels) can be achieved.

Mayor Prendergast says control of the outer wharf would also ensure that the public continues to enjoy unencumbered access around the wharf for activities such as walking and fishing. 

Resource consent was granted in May 2008 by Greater Wellington Regional Council. Mayor Prendergast says the consent hearing commissioners last year considered all the environmental issues, following an extensive hearing process with a total of 182 submissions, and recognised the substantial community benefits of the project.

"It's obvious their decision has been wholeheartedly supported by the Environment Court. The vast majority of Wellingtonians also support the redevelopment."