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WATERFRONT WAR: Tidal wave against plans

WATERFRONT WAR: Tidal wave against plans

By Chris Renwick

THE city council-funded Our City Our Future strategic advisory group has come out against the council's proposed development of Lambton Harbour.

A draft submission prepared for the group by architect Daryl Cockburn says the council's proposed "Variation 17" to its District Plan would undermine an agreed strategy that the waterfront should remain essentially open space.

It comes amidst a tidal wave of opposition to the variation which former councillor Denis Foot predicts will be "the biggest planning issue to face Wellington since the Thorndon motorway in the 1960s".

By 17 Jan, three weeks before submissions close on 7 Feb, more than 100 submissions had already been lodged with the council - the vast majority believed to be against the variation.

Current councillor Andy Foster says the only previous planning issue on which he can remember such a reaction was the proposed inner-city "bypass", and he says the reaction then was from a narrower group.

"On this one it's the broad community," he says. "At every social function I go to - and I mean social functions that have nothing to do with the council - everyone will ask about Variation 17."

Lobby group Waterfront Watch is organising a public meeting on the issue at St Andrew's on the Terrace next Thursday (17 Jan), where it will present an alternative audio-visual presentation showing the 20 new buildings that the variation would allow on the waterfront.

Spokesperson Helen Glasgow says they are receiving a fantastic response from people who are coming up to them and expressing their shock that the council is proposing building on Frank Kitts Park.

Daryl Cockburn says that while the Our City Our Future group understands the need for the waterfront to be developed, it doesn't believe this is the right way.

The advisory group was originally set up by council to help it to develop its strategic policy and now exists to monitor and help in the policy's implementation.

Cockburn says one of the crucial principles of the strategy is the maintenance of Lambton Harbour as essentially open space.

He says the group is conscious of the council's need to clear the $30 million debt owed by Lambton Harbour Management, but believes the way to do it is not by major commercial development.

Another part of the policy supports a strong Central Business District and he says the proposed commercial development would only compete with existing ratepayers and erode the waterfront's open space character. He says we have neither the population nor the resources to warrant expensive quayside development.

He feels the group would support smaller commercial development such as one- or two-storey buildings containing appropriate "recreational/retail" activities - but not at the proposed level .

Southern Environmental Association chair Robert Logan says his group will oppose the variation because of a loss of green space and what SEA sees as an excessive proliferation of buildings.

Action For the Environment chair Carrick Lewis says his group is concerned about traffic bottlenecks, loss of open space, the risk of more white elephants appearing on the waterfront and saving Chaffers Park as a people's park.

Denis Foot says: "Before the council and Lambton Harbour and concerned citizens spend millions fighting over it, the council would do well to consider withdrawing the whole thing."

* Public mtg, St Andrew's on the Tce, Thu 27 Jan, 7.30pm. Model of proposed development on display in city council foyer, Wakefield St, until 28 Jan. Submission forms available there & at libraries. Writeback, p.22.

(c) City Voice Newspaper.


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