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Mayor Blumsky: Statement To The People Of Wgtn




Monday 7 February 2000

Office of the Mayor


I’ve asked you here today because I have a very important message for the People of Wellington.

There has been a lot of concern and even anger about the council’s plans to make the Waterfront even more the centre of life and recreation in Wellington. It’s become a fight that’s created a lot of heat but not much light. But it has upset people, and worried them. And it has divided the city and that’s the last thing we need. Many of the concerns are genuine.

The People of Wellington have put their trust in me twice – in 1998 an overwhelming majority of them. My vision as Leader of the City is to make Wellington vibrant and to make Wellington safe. To ensure I deliver to the People, I’ve put together a majority coalition on council, consisting of Wellington Alive and Labour.

The Wellington Waterfront belongs to the People, and we love it. It is where people go to eat, drink, play, learn, work and live. It’s the most beautiful harbour I’ve ever seen. Since the Civic Trust was first established in 1982, it’s really come alive. There’s Frank Kitts Park where families picnic. There’s the small harbour from where people launch their dragon boats. There’s the Dockside/Shed Five area where people stream out of their offices and have fun on Friday night – and all through the week. There’s the Te Papa/Circa area that has had 3 million visitors in just the last year. Who would have believed a few years ago that 3 million people would have visited that area?

The plan has always been that, from the stadium right to Mt Victoria, our Waterfront would be full of people, full of life – it’d be the Spirit of Wellington.

What makes the Waterfront vibrant is that it’s diverse. It belongs to every Wellingtonian and it’s for every Wellingtonian. There’s a mixture of parks, bars, cafes, art galleries, museums, apartments, more parks and restaurants. That combination is what brings people here and gives the area life. And we have so much more to do, to build on what we have achieved!

Looking ahead, we must not let extreme views gain control of our waterfront. I reject the notion that a wall ever be allowed to divide Wellingtonians from their harbour. Equally, I reject the view that we should turn the whole Waterfront into a paddock. And I reject the idea that we should do nothing – leaving the Chaffers area a wasteland rather than a park, or not make the carparks something more.

The council must find the middle ground to take the Waterfront forward, leaving behind extreme views on either side. And, as we move forward, we must ensure that the people remain in control of what happens on the Waterfront. It is the People’s Waterfront.

The trust the People of Wellington have given me is something I will never, ever betray. As long as I am Mayor, this Waterfront will be the People’s Waterfront. I will not allow a wall to be built separating the People of Wellington from their Waterfront. Nor will I allow the People’s Waterfront to be reduced to just some old paddock – a Jumbo Glover Park. And I do not accept the status quo, with the Chaffers area so uninviting – just one example.

The council I have been elected to lead will find the middle way between those who would build a wall and those who would leave the area empty and lifeless. Today I am going to propose a compromise that lays the foundation for the way forward.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the very first improvements took place and people began returning to their waterfront. Since then, several public consultation processes have led to the current concept plan to keep the process moving forward. The plan would finally deliver Chaffers Park – a grassy park more than nine times the size of Civic Square. It would provide the opportunity for new cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries or shops. There could be apartments to bring people right to the water’s edge. There would be other parks and squares – five North of Queen’s Wharf. Frank Kitts Park would face the sea. There could be a new five star hotel in place of the empty Shed One to attract more tourists to our city – and our Waterfront.

It was to give life to these ideas that the council put forward our plan. The current process of involving the People will no doubt improve our plan – some things will be dropped, other ideas introduced. It’ll end up better. But, unfortunately, all the heat over recent weeks has led to the fear and alarm we saw in the Town Hall on Tuesday.

Some of my councillors are extremely angry about the misinformation that has caused that fear and alarm. They may wish to comment on that. As Mayor, though, it doesn’t matter how public alarm has been raised; it has to be addressed. As Mayor, I have to find a way forward. These are my proposals that I’ll be asking my team to action at today’s council meeting.

The current process of involving the public will continue as planned. But, today, I will be asking my council to extend the period for submissions on our plan until 7 May. I’ll be asking my council to instruct officers to review all the general issues that have been raised in recent weeks. And I’ll be asking council to instruct officers to rigorously research all the different shades of public opinion – what balance do the people of Wellington want between all the different uses of the area that, together, bring it alive. I’ve asked the Deputy Mayor to guide those recommendations through Council today so that a new submission can be developed that reflects a concept plan that all reasonable Wellingtonians could support.

What I guarantee again is that I will not allow this area to become just another residential area, or just another shopping centre, or just another Courtenay Place, or just another office building, or just another park. I want it to be a balance of all those things, in the way the People want it. Today, I am therefore announcing a new process to develop a mechanism to ensure my guarantee can stand in perpetuity. I’m calling it The People’s Waterfront Charter.

The People’s Waterfront Charter will enshrine that the primary use of the Waterfront will always be quality recreational space for the People of Wellington to enjoy. It will protect the People’s interests in their Waterfront, and ensure that they control its evolution. It shall ensure that any development occurs organically rather than as a single undertaking. The Charter is not finished. It is for the People of Wellington to develop. Councillor Piper will be responsible for introducing this process at today’s council meeting.

Through the charter, the People of Wellington will be assured that the Waterfront is forever their Waterfront. Through the charter, we will have agreed on how to ensure a sensible balance between all the different things that will make it even more vibrant and even more safe. It will ensure the Waterfront will always be the People’s Waterfront. It will ensure that the people will never need to be alarmed again.

I also want to reach out today to those who are concerned about this issue. I hope we can work together to reach agreement on the middle ground. I believe we can develop a charter we all agree with. Let’s be reasonable with one another. Let’s not shout at one another. Let’s not get ourselves locked into extremist positions. Let’s just work constructively through the issues, identify the key concerns fairly and honestly, and address them. I hope that at 2 o’clock today the council can have a good, fair, civilised conversation, create some light, and work together on moving forward.

Thank you for your time.


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