Building with a zero height: Great idea or Waterfront Ridiculous-ness?

Early December 2008 the Wellington City Council examined draft documents for Variation 11 (the long title being: District Plan Variation 11: Amendments to Proposed District Plan Change 48 (Central Area Review) – Wellington Waterfront.)

The relevant documents are: Report 1, Appendix 1, The Section 32 Report, and Attachment 1

At the time of the meeting Lindsay Shelton wrote an article available on Scoop suggesting inappropriate council behaviour such as: council officers approving buildings, the public being un-notified, and the outlawing of coffee (just joking about the coffee!).

Anyway, some day soon this should all become official for public consultation, and theoretically we’ll have 2 months or so to think about what the Arch Centre position is on all this. The documents are in part a reaction to the Hilton decision. As the council notes “the Environment Court did not question the existing waterfront Framework … but questioned the method of incorporation and reference in the District Plan.”

The Variation also includes changing the “strict regime … requiring all new building development and the development of open space to be assessed as Discretionary Activities (Unrestricted). This was to ensure that no development would occur on the waterfront without the opportunity for public involvement.” Currently, the main mechanism to ensure all projects are notified is the imposition of a zero height limit. The new proposal is “a new Discretionary (Restricted) rule with associated development standards and a design guide.”

Another key issue is the use of the idea of “design excellence,” borrowed from the existing Central Area under Plan Change 48 to allow over-height buildings. Wellington isn’t over-burdened with “design excellence” oozing from its built environment so you’d think on the surface that this was a good idea.

Oozing with Design Excellence?
Oozing with Design Excellence?

But what is “design excellence” and who decides? and are these people appropriately qualified in these matters? A nice idea but a dangerous one? And isn’t it an oxymoron (I love that word) to have a Maximum Height Limit plus 15% – what was that definition of “maximum”?

What are your opinions re: this? As usual the sub-committee drafting the submission won’t include anyone involved in related (i.e. Waterfront in this case) projects, nor those working in any firms involved in such work. But we will consider ideas discussed on this blog, which no doubt will be varied and possibly contradictory. Any members keen on being involved please email Kate or Christine.


7 responses to “Building with a zero height: Great idea or Waterfront Ridiculous-ness?”

  1. Where is the big picture view in the document, assuming that having a defined plan for North Kumutoto is a reasonable idea, and I am not convinced that is the case, where is the connection of that area to the rest of the city?

    Jervois Quay is a barrier to public access to the waterfront if the area is to be redeveloped the relationship between Lambton Quay and the parliamentary quarter to the waterfront and North Kumutoto specifically needs to be considered. To just redevelop the waterfront whilst ignoring this aspect will surely just extend the walled effect of the waterfront provided by the current sheds 11 and 13 and ever further separate an area that is not well connected to the rest of the city.

  2. Confused?? Avatar

    How confusing is it to for the general public when they read that a under the current district plan a Discretionary Activity (Unrestricted) is a restrictive practice and that it would be less restrictive it it was a Discretionary Activity (Restricted)?

  3. If the Environment Court upheld the Waterfront Framework, is there really any need to change it? (Other than embedding it more ‘legally’ within the District Plan).

    I think the zero height limit is brilliant, and while I don’t have anything against tall buildings, I think the bar for design excellence on the Waterfront should be extremely high… That said, I agree that current council evaluations of design excellence are woefully inadequate – either that or they are succumbing to developer pressure way too easily (which amounts to the same thing really). I remember Kerry banging-on about the Auckland’s Urban Design Panel, suggesting that better outcomes could be achieved if the expertise was kept in-house (at the Council) – someone should really do some sort of study comparing the successes (or lack of) of both approaches… (but that, I guess, is a whole other issue? – or could a case be made for a special panel being called to hear cases of waterfront design excellence?) …And, I was hoping that every design on the waterfront would be excellent (which is why it is so important to maintain control over the standard of projects by making them all notified), so in that sense, there would be no one subject to the lower of the two height limits anyway!?

    Sorry for the ramble, I might comment later with something more coherent (after having actually read the documents over a short black or two on the waterfront of course)…

  4. what’s all the fuss about anyway – isn’t only for a couple more buildings?

  5. Le Blanc Avatar
    Le Blanc

    “what’s all the fuss about anyway – isn’t only for a couple more buildings?” – well no, not exactly. There are potentially 3 or 4 buildings around the Kumutoto area, and of course the 2 or 3 already mooted at the Waitangi Park area. Plus there is the Hilton replacement at the Outer Queens Wharf, and probably some construction involved in the Frank Kitts Park as well. All up I make it about 10 buildings, although i seem to remember that the Waterfront Watch reckoned there were going to be around 15 or so.

    So, all up, it probably is worth having some things sorted out rather than leaving each one to a resource consent hearing

  6. so the main thrust of this Variation is that the pre-requisite to have a notified Resource COnsent is to be done away with, and left for the council to deal with in house? Is that it, or have I misunderstood your post?

  7. christine Avatar

    “so the main thrust of this Variation is that the pre-requisite to have a notified Resource COnsent is to be done away with”

    Yep – currently the zero height limit triggers notification. Whether this is the best mechanism or not; and whether in fact public notification is needed are all important aspects of this variation to be discussed.

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