Wellington Town Belt – a Capital taonga protected in law for the future

5 May 2016

Following the third and final reading in Parliament yesterday – the local Bill for the Wellington Town Belt has finally been passed.

The Wellington Town Belt Act 2016 gives greater protection to the Town Belt, guards its special status, and gives greater say to the Wellington public on its future direction.

The Town Belt is a significant area of open space providing a scenic backdrop and offering recreational opportunities to residents and visitors.  It comprises nearly 520 hectares stretching in a horseshoe shape from Mt Victoria / Matairangi, including the Berhampore Golf Course to Te Ahumairangi Hill / Tinakori Hill.

The draft Wellington Town Belt Bill was finally approved by the Council on 30th September 2014 and then introduced into Parliament on 7 September 2015. Grant Robertson, MP for Wellington Central sponsored the bill and introduced it into Parliament on 7 September 2015. “We now have a piece of legislation that gives the Town Belt the recognition and protection it deserves.  It is particularly exciting that as a result of this legislation for the first time since 1873 we will be adding land to the Town Belt”, he said. 

The new Act imposes responsibility on the Council to protect, manage and enhance the Town Belt as a public recreation ground for the people of Wellington. The Act will simplify, clarify and make much more transparent the management of the Town Belt for the future.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is delighted for the people of Wellington that the Bill has been passed. “The new Act highlights the importance of the Town Belt for its landscape, recreation and biodiversity” she says. 

Cr. Helene Ritchie, Wellington City Council’s Natural Environment Portfolio Leader led the development of this new legislation from the outset in 2010. “It has been a privilege for me to work with so many dedicated Wellingtonians, staff and members of Parliament.” 

“I am confident that the new Act will enhance the Town Belt, and immediately add 130 hectares of land. The Town Belt will be protected, and the Council will no longer have power to sell, exchange or use as security Town Belt land. As well, we have limited the area that can be leased or licensed by clubs and organisations, to 8 hectares from the previous 40 hectares”, she says.

The original Town Belt was a continuous horseshoe-shaped reserve of 625 hectares and was set aside in 1839 under the instruction of the Secretary of the New Zealand Company, the private company that established Wellington. The Town Belt was held by the Crown from 1841 and the Wellington City Council became responsible for it in 1873. By this time, approximately one third of the land had been appropriated for other uses.