Our Living City

Our Living City is a project to improve Wellington’s quality of life by strengthening urban-nature connections and building economic opportunities from a healthy environment.

Illustration showing people enjoying the outdoors. It reads

Wellington’s greatest strength as a city is our quality of life, and nature plays a big part of this.  

One of the selling points of Wellington is that if you come here you can get to the sea, you can climb the hills in bush, you can mountain bike and you can enjoy the forest. It has become a sense of who we are.

Sir Paul Callaghan

With our harbour, hills, wild coastline, and native flora and fauna all situated in close proximity to urban life, our connection to nature is a significant point of difference, benefitting us ecologically, economically, socially and culturally.

Our Living City goals

We have identified three goals for Our Living City:

1. Growing and enjoying our natural capital

This is about making sure projects in the following areas are all carried out in a way which protects and develops our urban nature, biodiversity and resilience:

  • urban design
  • land use
  • open space management
  • infrastructure and water

2. Transforming our economy and reducing impact

This is about:

  • attracting people, ideas and investment to the city
  • promoting green research, technologies and services
  • investing in smart infrastructure
  • reducing emissions from stationary energy, transport and waste.

3. Showing leadership

This is about:

  • encouraging community action
  • establishing partnerships, including research partnerships.

The above goals support the four pillars that make up our Towards 2040: Smart Capital vision.

Our Living City actions

To achieve these goals, we plan to engage with the community, share stories, align Council policies and programmes, and grow partnerships.

Community engagement

Through the development of our Towards 2040: Smart Capital vision and our Long-term Plan, Wellingtonians have told us that they value the natural environment, in particular the harbour, streams and the city's natural attractions.

To create a clear pathway to protect and build on the things people love and value about the city, we often seek the community's views on:

  • what threats and challenges we face
  • what solutions and opportunities we should prioritise
  • how we can work together to achieve our goals.


Wellington’s geography, natural history, cultural history and urban development all combine to make it a unique and beautiful city. 

Many of us have stories to share of our uniquely-Wellington experiences. Sharing these stories locally and internationally is how we become and remain a place where ‘talent wants to live’.


To live up to our claims we must be ready to make ‘big shifts’ to meet our goals.

This means making sure:

  • our policies and programmes support and develop our urban-nature connections
  • our work programmes and funding programmes are aligned
  • we identify and address any policy gaps
  • we develop key performance indicators so we can measure our progress.



We have created the following partnerships to grow our reputation as a Centre of Excellence for urban planning, resilience and ecological sustainability:

  • We are participants in the Biophilic Cities research programme, led by Professor Timothy Beatley of the Virginia University School of Architecture. Biophilic Cities are cities that contain abundant nature. They care about, and seek to protect, restore and grow this nature, and strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world. Nature is not something optional, but essential to living a happy, healthy and meaningful life.
  • The Wellington Nature Map is a joint project between the Wellington City Council, Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture, and Wellington Living Architecture group. By showcasing Wellington’s special sites of nature in the city, nature activities on offer, and places where our urban fabric reflects our love of nature, the Wellington Nature Map project firmly cements Wellington’s reputation as a leading global nature city.
  • Professor Timothy Beatley gave a public lecture in the Wellington Town Hall about biophilic urbanism and the importance of nature in cities. Beatley is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia.
    A Daily Dose of Nature - YouTube

Commerce and community

We are looking for partners who have ideas that will:

  • contribute to our identity and sense of place
  • encourage community action
  • attract new economic development and innovation.

If you are interested in partnering with us in any of the above areas, contact Tim Park on (04) 806 4739 or email tim.park@wcc.govt.nz

Showcase projects

The following initiatives embody the principles of Our Living City - they showcase our work in biodiversity, green infrastructure, urban design, healthy housing, and alternative energy use: 

  • Creating Wellington’s ‘Blue Belt’: Conserving and restoring marine life, highlighting the significance of the harbour and exploring the possiblity of creating an extended marine protection area 
  • Launching the Two Million Trees project: Bringing the bush to the city:
    Projects - Two Million Trees
  • Piloting 'Living Walls': We are inviting partners to work with us in testing green walls or vertical gardens in the Wellington environment
  • Developing a healthy homes programme to improve the quality of Wellington's older homes: With partners, we are exploring accreditation for home sustainability assessments and linking property owners with financing schemes that help them take action
  • Consultation on a Smart Energy Capital proposal as part of the 2013/14 Draft Annual Plan: A proposal to dedicate $250,000 per annum for 2 years to new ‘smart energy’ partnership projects in Wellington like:
New Zealand Green Building Council logo.

Wellington City Council is a member of the NZ Green Building Council.

More information

Tim Park
Environment Partnership Leader

Phone 04 806 4739
Mobile 021 247 9739
Email tim.park@wcc.govt.nz