Managing growth

Wellington is dominated by its natural landscape - its harbour and hills - in a way that very few other cities are. It has a vibrant central city, and it's relatively easy to move about in.

Replaced by Spatial Plan 2021

This has been replaced by the He Mahere Mokowā mō Pōneke - A Spatial Plan for Wellington City 2021.

View the final Spatial Plan

Wellington Urban Growth Plan

Our strategy to manage an expected population growth of around 50,000 people over the next 30 years.

Wellington City’s population is expected to grow by around 50,000 people and 22,000 new homes over the next 30 years. The Urban Growth Plan is our strategy to manage this growth sustainably and integrate our transport planning. To do this, we will ensure new houses, our transport networks, infrastructure and services are provided where needed.

The guiding principles behind the plan are we want to:

  • keep our city compact, walkable and supported by an efficient transport network
  • maintain the features that support our high quality of life
  • protect the city’s natural setting and reduce the environmental impacts of development and transport
  • make the city more resilient to natural hazards, such as earthquakes, and the effects of climate change.

Our strategy is to direct urban growth where it will benefit the city most and is supported by a quality transport network:

  • along the ‘growth spine’, between Johnsonville and the airport
  • around the central city
  • around selected suburban centres which can support intensification
  • in ‘greenfield’ areas, north of the city, at Lincolnshire Farm and Stebbings Valley.

Urban growth will be supported by investment in public transport, cycling and other transport networks. It will also involve investment in town centres, open spaces, community facilities and other infrastructure.

To put the Urban Growth Plan into action, an Implementation Plan has been developed. This identifies the priority projects for the next 10 years, including:

  • quick wins which are ready for implementation – Victoria Street precinct, Lombard Lane and north Lambton Quay
  • ongoing programmes spanning the whole 10 years of the Long-term Plan – cycle network improvements, bus priority measures, support for the earthquake strengthening of heritage buildings and city laneway improvements
  • short-term projects which can be delivered or should be started in the first 3 years of the Long-term Plan – north Kumutoto sites 8 and 10, Shelly Bay redevelopment, Watts Peninsula reserve, Te Aro regeneration, Special Housing Areas, new medium-density residential areas
  • medium-term projects which require further planning or development and are recommended for the later years of the Long-term Plan – Adelaide Road, Cambridge and Kent terraces, Petone to Grenada link road, Northern Growth Area link roads, inner city Roads of National Significance and Aro Street improvements. 

The Council's approach to managing growth aims to keep and enhance Wellington's distinctive qualities - to sustain a city that is compact, liveable, sustainable, prosperous, and has a strong 'sense of place'.

Sense of Place study

The Council completed a study on how it can enhance and preserve Wellington's sense of place, including suburban variation.

Wellington - Our Sense of Place (539KB PDF)

Learn more about the Council's urban design objectives:

Urban Design

Urban Development strategy

The Urban Development Strategy sets out the Council's long-term approach to managing growth and change for Wellington city. The strategy is built around a 50-year growth concept that reinforces the distinct physical and spatial characteristics of Wellington.

This concept is based on the idea of a 'growth spine', which encourages growth in housing and employment in key centres linked by a public transport spine between Johnsonville and Wellington Airport.

The strategy estimates 60% of all new housing developments will be directed along the 'growth spine' - 85% of which will be in the central city area or within walking distance of inner suburban centres.

The strategy also provides for:

  • intensive employment and housing in and around key town centres
  • greenfield open space growth mainly in the Northern Growth Area
  • limited infill development in other residential areas.

Directing growth in this way and improving the quality of development will help make the city:

  • Safer and more liveable - by increasing lifestyle choices and the quality of places.
  • More sustainable - by using less energy, generating less pollution, and being more resilient.
  • Better connected - by strengthening road and public transport linkages.
  • More prosperous - by directing growth to areas where the marginal costs are lower and allowing building owners and developers to respond readily to changing market needs.
  • More compact - by building on the contained urban form that residents value.
  • More memorable and distinctive - by enhancing urban amenity and sense of place.

The Council reviews the strategy every 3 years as part of the Council's long-term planning processes.

Place-based planning projects

The Council has completed several 'place-based' plans and projects to plan for the long-term growth and change of key centres:

Central City apartment growth

Actively planning for inner-city residential population growth lets the Council and others build urban spaces and places that will work - now and in the future.

A key focus is making sure that future development and population growth enhances, rather than undermines, the central city as an attractive destination for people.

There are over 5,500 apartments in the central city area. Under current growth projections, it is estimated the central city area will need to accommodate about 12,000 more people (or 7,000 new households) over the next 20 years. New apartment developments will accomodate most of this population growth.

In 2008, the Council undertook a survey of apartment residents to better understand the community of approximately 13,000 people who live in the central city area.

Central City Apartment Dwellers Survey - Summary of Results (635KB PDF)

In 2010, Statistics New Zealand released a report summarising apartment residents in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It highlights Wellington's relatively large number of inner-city residents and the significant growth in inner-city apartment residents over the 1996 - 2006 period.

Apartment Dwellers: 2006 Census - Statistics NZ

Suburban growth management

During 2006/08 a review of the Council's approach to managing infill housing was completed. This work led to the Council adopting a more targeted approach to infill housing - encouraging infill housing in areas best suited for more intensive living, and protecting areas with significant character values.

This work also informed the review of the Suburban Centre and Residential chapters of the District Plan. The proposed changes to the District Plan as a result of this review support more intensive mixed-use areas in the city's suburban centres, and provide for more intensive residential living in key 'growth spine' nodes, for example Johnsonville and Kilbirnie.

Other research inputs