Waterfront plan approved despite concerns

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2014
Wellington waterfront
ISTHMUS

OPEN SPACE: Landscape designs for site 8, next to the kina sculptures, were revealed to Wellington City Council yesterday. They link the waterfront to a new building at site 10.

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City councillors have been left somewhat underwhelmed by plans for a new public space on the Wellington waterfront.

A council committee yesterday approved the design for a new building on the controversial North Kumutoto site, but expressed disappointment when they were shown landscape plans for an open space next door.

"I thought we were going to get something a lot better than that," Iona Pannett said.

"That looks a bit bleak," mayor Celia Wade-Brown said.

The plan for the area known as site 8 - between the proposed site 10 building and the kina sculptures - shows boarded walkway areas with seating and sloping areas that people can lean on when sitting. It also has a step down to the water's edge, so people can put their feet in the water and launch kayaks.

But it contains no greenery.

Robin Simpson, of the technical advisory group, told councillors a "green space" did not necessarily require grass, and designers had opted for something that embraced the ecology of the waterfront. "It adds another option to engage with the water's edge."

But councillors on the transport and urban development committee appeared disappointed by the lack of greenery. Wade-Brown successfully moved that the design be looked at again, with more "pocket planting", sculptures and water fountains included.

Wellington Waterfront chief executive Ian Pike said it would take the suggestions on board, but he felt grassy areas were unlikely as people did not often sit on them.

"The space that we are proposing will have a very, very high amenity value."

But while the landscaping did not sit well, a rejigged design for the site 10 office building gained approval. It comes after Wellington Waterfront bowed to public pressure and reduced the size of the building.

An Environment Court decision had rejected an earlier building proposal on site 10, ruling that it was too tall and out of keeping with its surroundings. It said that any building on the site should not be more than 22 metres tall.

But the latest Willis Bond & Co proposal came in at six storeys, and 25m.

After public feedback, the top storey and a rooftop garden were removed, bringing the height back to 22.4m.

Councillors yesterday said any building on the site had to pass a high bar.

"In this case I'm very keen to support the project because I believe it's been passed," Justin Lester said, adding that there were no equivalent alternatives.

"If we were of a mind to decline this proposal . . . it would remain a concrete wasteland for at least the next 10 years."

But Pannett opposed the project, saying public space should not be commercialised. "This is some of our most important space, it belongs to all of us, not just a few people who can work there or make a business out of it."

The building was not of a high enough standard, she said. Of the seven-member committee, only Pannett voted against the design.

The design proposal, along with commercial arrangements, will go to the full council for consideration next week. If approved, the resource consent process will then begin. Construction could begin at the end of next year.

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Other decisions by the transport and urban development committee included:

A recommendation for a blanket 30kmh speed limit for the whole CBD. The full council will now have the final say on whether to drop the central city speeds.

Agreement for a "scoping project" to look at whether to replace all the city's 18,000 streetlights with brighter LED bulbs and digital technology that interacts with smartphones, tablet computers and GPS satellites. The scheme would cost between $10 million and $20m but save ratepayers about $2.1m each year in energy costs.

Approval for designing and consulting on the Island Bay to city cycleway, with a final round of consultation starting next month.

The committee also agreed further cycle routes should be looked at in conjunction with other transport planning, such as bus routes, to ensure they are complementary.


- The Dominion Post

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