Mayor Welcomes Variation 11 Decision

9 November 2009

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast has welcomed the decision by independent commissioners to recommend that the City Council adopt Variation 11 - the proposed change to the District Plan that would set the rules for the size and height of new buildings on the north Kumutoto area of the waterfront.

The commissioners' decision, following a public hearing in August, is to be considered at a Council meeting next Wednesday 11 November - and Mayor Prendergast hopes City Councillors will vote to accept the recommendations.

The decision report and accompanying documents have been posted on this website in the District Plan - Plan Changes section.

Mayor Prendergast says the commissioners - Pamela Peters, Neil Penney and Mark St Clair - have endorsed Variation 11, subject to a number of proposed amendments.

"Variation 11 aims to help transform the bleak and underutilised north Kumutoto section of the waterfront - between the Meridian building and Shed 21 opposite the Railway Station - into an area that's busy, vibrant and attractive to the public.

"It aims to give certainty to the public about how the area should be developed. It'll remove any doubts in some sections of the community that the City Council and Wellington Waterfront Ltd want to 'privatise' the waterfront," says Mayor Prendergast.

The commissioners recommend that in areas such as Kumutoto, resource consent applications for new buildings within prescribed height and bulk limits should be considered without the need for public notification.

They have proposed a series of amendments to address some of the concerns raised by submitters:

  • A reduction of the height limit (from 25m to 16m) on site 9 at the southern end of the Kumutoto area opposite Shed 13 to encourage an appropriate building 'transition' in recognition of the heritage status of this building. A slight height-limit reduction on site 8.
  • The deletion of a proposed 15% building height discretion.
  • Various wording changes to make it clear that any building development consent applications beyond the specified building height and 'footprint' requirements will be more likely to be publicly-notified.
  • The inclusion of historic heritage rules to ensure consideration can be given to the effect of new building on all adjacent heritage buildings.
  • The inclusion of enhanced policies and specific rules to achieving public accessibility to the ground floor of buildings and the provision of 'active edges'.

Mayor Prendergast says the proposed reductions in height limits are likely to have "challenging implications" in terms of the development potential of sites 8 and 9.

"However I believe the commissioners have made fair and reasonable recommendations."

If the Council votes next week to reject the commissioners' recommendations, a fresh hearing will be required.

If approved by the Council next week the commissioners' decision will be publicly notified and notice served on the submitters. Submitters then have the option of appealing the matter to the Environment Court within 30 working days.  If no appeals are made then Variation 11 will become operative. 

Mayor Prendergast says the aims of Variation 11 were well-signalled in the Wellington Waterfront Framework published in April 2001. This framework was the subject of extensive public engagement - and continues to be the Council's blueprint for development on the waterfront.

"I and a majority of Councillors believe a mix of buildings and public spaces is the best way of transforming the Kumutoto area from the tarsealed wasteland that it is now. Variation 11 would recognise that buildings up to a moderate height would benefit the area and help link it to the central business district.

"Variation 11 would mean that buildings fitting within the rules of the variation would not have to be subject to the long, expensive and unpredictable hearings processes that have held up important projects such as the redevelopment of the Overseas Passenger Terminal."

Mayor Prendergast adds that the experience with the Meridian building and the public areas around it - and the fact it has proven highly popular with the public - and the fact that fewer than 50 submissions were received on the proposed Variation 11, "gives me great confidence that in terms of the ongoing development of the waterfront we're on the right track and that we have the backing of the vast majority of Wellingtonians".