Wellington’s Spatial Plan – What You’ve Said And What Happens Next
Mayor Andy Foster says initial analysis of nearly 3000 submissions on the city’s draft Spatial Plan show Wellingtonians want a vibrant, liveable city and affordable housing as the housing crisis deepens across the country.
The submissions show that submitters were split on the quantity and location of the new houses but that there was wide consensus of the need to take action immediately to address a shortage of affordable housing and other issues such as infrastructure and climate change.
The comments come in response to the release of an analysis report that presents the key themes of the submissions and as the Government signals significant change in the resource management area.
Mayor Foster says the results of the analysis reflect the conversations during the draft Spatial Plan engagement and highlight the complexity of resolving Wellington’s housing challenges alongside recognising the things the community values about the city.
“It’s clear that everyone wants what’s best for the city and people who live here and that the city wants us to lead on providing more affordable housing.
“We heard repeatedly that increasing housing supply and affordability should be a priority, along with caring for the built and natural environments. We also received feedback relating to the intrinsic value people placed on pre-1930s character, the priority placed on more affordable homes close to public transport and key services and the need for infrastructure upgrades.
“We’re continuing to undertake the complex planning work around the infrastructure required to support growth. Naturally some areas are cheaper to develop and some more expensive. Importantly in the short-term, areas of the city that will support growth need to be integrated with infrastructure planning and funding decisions.
“There is a concern among some that the intention of the Spatial Plan to densify the city will come at the expense of the quality of life and urban environment Wellingtonians already enjoy. Doing density well will be a key consideration as we move into the District Plan Review later this year.
“During the community engagement period that fed into the Spatial Plan I undertook a very valuable series of neighbourhood walkabouts with local councillors, talking with residents first-hand and seeing how they view the challenges and opportunities in balancing housing provision with protecting the characteristics they love about their neighbourhood.”
Liam Hodgetts, Wellington City Council’s Chief Planning Officer, says the Spatial Plan debate has been heightened by the Government’s new National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) which directs councils to enable intensification in and around city centres, metropolitan centres and within walkable catchments of existing and planned rapid transit stops, such as railway stations. The NPS-UD requires the Council to place greater emphasis on enabling housing development than ever before.
Mr Hodgetts says while the NPS encourages and enables more dense and compact cities, it still allows the Council to protect historic heritage, open space, significant ecological areas and, where justified, special character areas such as those proposed in the draft Spatial Plan.
Wellingtonians made their views known to the City Council during the eight weeks of community engagement at the end of last year through a series of meetings, formal submissions and four days of hearings. The Council’s planning team is reviewing those submissions in detail to understand what changes are needed to give effect to public views.
This work is taking some time due to the large number of submissions, and to ensure people’s concerns and suggestions are given full consideration. The Council will finalise the plan in June. It will be considered alongside the Long-term Plan to help with investment decisions.
This final Spatial Plan will be a strategic document that will help shape the new District Plan which provides more detail about the rules for development. The District Plan Review will provide a further opportunity for Wellingtonians to have their say on how we manage future development and protect what is important to the city. A non-statutory Draft District Plan will be consulted on by the end of 2021, before notification of a statutory Proposed District Plan in 2022. The NPS-UD requires that the Council notify the changes to the Plan by August 2022.
Below are some of the key findings uncovered through the analysis of respondent feedback:
- Intensification was the most commonly-discussed topic. There was a reasonably even split between those in favour of intensification, and those who opposed it.
- Those in favour of intensification wanted to ensure Wellington is prepared for future growth and that positive outcomes are realised. These respondents wrote about the benefits that would result from intensification, which included more affordable housing, better proximity to amenities, higher quality housing, and a more compact city that would increase vibrancy.
- Those who opposed intensification objected based on the things that they felt would be lost. In particular, respondents feared losing the character of established suburbs which some consider are an iconic aspect of Wellington. These comments tended to focus on whole areas or suburbs, particularly the inner suburbs, and noted the value of character homes for the wider community who enjoy them from the street, as well as those fortunate enough to live in them.
- Character was the main feature respondents were afraid of losing as a result of change. Many people believed that Wellington’s character is what makes the city special and felt the proposed changes in the Plan risk changing the character of the city forever.
- Overall, there were two distinct opinions expressed on this topic. These two camps either placed strong value on heritage/character protection to retain Wellington’s special identity, or prioritised quality, affordable homes to encourage diversity - both architectural and human – over character protection.
- Respondents were doubtful that existing infrastructure would be able to handle projected growth, and therefore argued for infrastructure upgrades to be carried out prior to intensification.
- Most frequently mentioned were ‘three-waters’ and transport infrastructure. Both of these were seen to be struggling to cope with existing demand, leading to issues with water management, sewerage, traffic congestion and parking.
The value of Wellington’s natural environment
- Parks, green spaces, waterways, and biodiversity were mentioned by respondents who valued Wellington’s natural environment. Respondents wanted the Plan to include provision of more green and open spaces for residents, particularly as the city densifies. Calls were also made for the Council to incorporate more wildlife and biodiversity protection and enhancement into the Plan.
- Respondents appreciated the provisions put in the plan around climate change and sustainability. Others wanted to see proactive measures included in the Plan to reduce Wellington’s carbon footprint, as well as more robust planning for sea-level rise, earthquake hazards and any other natural disasters.