Don't Chuck Away this Chance to Have a Say

13 October 2009

A major rewrite of Wellington's town-planning rule book - the District Plan - is now the subject of more public scrutiny.

The proposed changes (72 and 73) to the Residential Area and Suburban Centre zones of the District Plan have been given the go-ahead by the Mayor and City Councillors - and now it's time for all Wellingtonians to have their say.

During the past fortnight Wellingtonians should have received, in the mail, a circular outlining proposed changes to the planning rules that affect most of the urban land in Wellington city.

Councillor Andy Foster, Wellington City Council's Urban Development and Transport Portfolio Leader, is urging everyone to take a few minutes to read the circular and then jot down a few thoughts and make a submission.

"Don't chuck this circular away - until 27 November, Wellingtonians have a prime opportunity to tell the City Council their views about everything from ugly townhouses and infill development, to the location of 'big-box' shopping developments and whether our South Coast could turn into a local version of Surfers Paradise.

"Don't chuck away the circular - or the chance to officially say your piece on the future of the city. If you don't get involved in the next few weeks then you'll have lost a crucial opportunity to make a difference."

The proposed planning rule changes cover most of the built-up area of the city - everything except the central business district and our rural areas - so most Wellingtonians will potentially be affected.

Cr Foster says the re-write of the District Plan is an important milestone for the city. "These proposals will determine how the city grows over the next 10 or more years, and are aimed at directing growth to the places that have the best transport accessibility and available services - our intention is that these rules will help ensure the city remains a great place to live and a dynamic and successful economy to provide jobs and prosperity to our community."

He says the proposed Plan changes won't alter the appearance or makeup of the suburbs overnight - in many cases it will be many years before any change becomes apparent. "But there are some areas of the city where we are signalling change, including major suburban centres like Johnsonville and Kilbirnie, where new forms of housing will be encouraged to provide for the lifestyle needed for current and future residents.

"This city's population is growing steadily. While a lot of it is in the central business district, we've targeted commercial hubs like Johnsonville and Kilbirnie to be areas where housing will be more intensive. As well we are encouraging residential growth in apartments within many of our larger town centres."

Population growth has to be accommodated sustainably and cost-effectively, Cr Foster says. "We want to avoid urban sprawl around the city and region - and Wellingtonians have already shown that there are many of us that prefer not to be wedded to the house in the suburbs with the big section and the compulsory lawnmowing."

Proposed changes 72 and 73 were publicly notified on 29 September and a leaflet briefly explaining the changes has been mailed to every ratepayer in the city in the past fortnight.

Submissions on the proposed changes will be accepted from the public until Friday 27 November.

A more comprehensive summary guide is available (below) to explain the proposed District Plan changes in more detail. Copies of the summary guide are also available from city libraries - or phone (04) 499 4444 and we will send you one.

Summary Guide (1.1Mb PDF)

Cr Foster says proposed Plan changes 72 and 73 constitute the biggest review of the District Plan since it was introduced in 1994. Monitoring of development around the city since then, and community feedback on issues such as the poor quality of some infill housing and some of our town centres, showed it was necessary to make some changes.

"What was right for the 1990s is not necessarily right for tomorrow's Wellington. We have likely to have much higher growth than in the past and we have to plan for where this should go.

"Just leaving 'the market' to make development choices and set standards has been shown not to produce results the community can be proud of. How Wellington is growing is also changing, with pressure for more large-format retail and new larger supermarkets for example. Where these are located can have a big influence on the shape of the city and travel patterns."

The District Plan changes also aim to better protect those areas of the city that have a special character that is important to the city as whole. Two particular proposals have been incorporated, the delineation of a new coastal character zone and revisions to the pre-1930 demolition controls that apply to some parts of the inner suburbs.

The big proposals

  • Replace the existing Suburban Centre zones with two new zones (Centres and Business Areas) to better reflect the role and function of our town centres and business areas. Most activities remain permitted, but there will be some controls on particular types of retail activity outside of the city's existing centres.
  • Introduce a new building design guide to improve the quality of development, particularly in existing centres where local character and identity is important.
  • Rezoning some areas from Residential to Centres to allow for expansion and to reflect existing uses.
  • Two new 'areas of change' around the Johnsonville and Kilbirnie town centres, where medium-density residential development will be encouraged.
  • Provisions to promote quality housing development throughout the city.
  • A new 'residential coastal edge' along parts of the coastline that recognises the contribution that the coast makes to the city's character
  • Amendments to the inner residential pre-1930s demolition rules to make them more consistent and effective.

Cr Foster says many Wellingtonians have already been involved in the development of these proposals, including through submissions made on a set of draft changes released in May this year.

"Some people may wonder why they are being subjected to another round of consultation. The law provides for this further round of consultation, and I would encourage people to get involved, even if they support the proposals. We need to hear all views to make the right decisions."

Once the submissions period closes in November, a summary report will be prepared. There will then be an opportunity for further submissions and following that the Councillors will sit on a hearing in the new year to hear verbal submissions.