Citywide Heritage Shake-up in the Offing

6 August 2010

A new way of looking at Thorndon's heritage status could result in a substantial overhaul of the approach to heritage in Wellington City, following a decision made by Wellington City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee yesterday.

Following 18 months of consultation with Thorndon residents, it was decided to move away from a blanket 'heritage area' term for Wellington's oldest suburb, and look at examining each aspect of its character and heritage to form the basis of a District Plan change. A Plan change will be ready for public notification next year.

The Council's Urban Development Portfolio Leader, Councillor Andy Foster, welcomes the decision.

"Thorndon's a very special part of the city with a significant history. Not just in the quality, age and coherence of its buildings - but also in the people who built those houses, who were in many ways the founders of modern Wellington.

"Wellingtonians have demonstrated their support for these character suburbs in the investment and hard work that's been done on thousands of pre-1930s houses. The Council has done a huge amount over the last 20 odd years with planning rules, and heritage support and investment. This is a further step along the journey.

"We hope this approach will also have value in other older character areas around the city. What we're aiming to do is protect the most important heritage values while ensuring that residents can adapt them to meet 21st century living requirements.

"Following consultation at the end of 2008, we were unable to find a consensus with the community as to what should be further controlled by planning rules. We've worked with the Thorndon community and other major stakeholders through some pretty innovative engagement processes, and now we feel we've reached a suitable way to look at how we manage residential heritage in future.

"So we're going to carry out a more intensive review of the area. This will include things like the architectural style, the unique streetscapes of our oldest suburb, the topography and vegetation and also the historic significance of individual residences in Thorndon as well the story of how the whole suburb came together in the 1800s," says Cr Foster.

Through the review, Council officers will work on a 'place-based' plan and design guidelines for Thorndon which will ultimately feed into the framework for the proposed District Plan change. Place-based plans look at the character of an area and also the desired future character of an area. This determines the planning standards for the location and shape of new buildings in that area.

Cr Foster says Thorndon has three clearly distinct areas - the workers' cottages on the slopes in the south and surrounding the Tinakori Road shops, the narrow streets of the Ascot Street, Glenbervie Terrace and Hill Street area and then the 'grand' merchants' houses to the north on Tinakori Road and in the Hobson Street area.

Cr Foster says it's important that the review won't just be about regulations, but about how to help building owners. It aims to improve heritage consent processes, the advice and information given to owners of heritage properties, and eligibility criteria for the Built Heritage Incentive Fund.

"It's important to remember that we protect heritage and streetscape for the benefit of all Wellingtonians, so we should recognise that by supporting the owners of heritage properties."