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skyline reservations

By June 21, 20118 Comments

Last week news of a proposed hotel development on the site of the Skyline Restaurant at the top of the cable car appeared on the front page of the Dominion Post.Ā  The article had salacious details of ā€˜clandestine dealingsā€™, ā€˜contractual agreementsā€™, the public and media banned from meetings behind closed doors at WCC and a proposal to revoke the reserve status of an area of the Botanic Gardens to allow for a hotel on the site.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5155609/Push-for-hotel-in-Botanic-Gardens

There are councillors for and against the proposal ā€“ some in favour of retaining the reserve status and keeping the site for public activity, and others supporting the free market and development who see no reason for the site to be a reserve.

The land of the Skyline Restaurant and car park, is owned by WCC and is subject to the Reserves Act 1977 and the Wellington Botanic Garden Vesting Act 1891 which ā€˜provides that the land is to be held and used ā€˜as a place of public recreation and enjoyment for the inhabitants of the City of Wellingtonā€™ā€™. Ā These acts place restrictions on the use of the siteĀ but WCC can lease out the land provided the activity is consistent with the requirements of the acts.Ā  In the past permitted activities have covered a range of uses including a restaurant, function centre, and cafe.

Panorama Ltd purchased the lease in January and there does seem to have been a bit of manoeuvering by the new tenant.Ā  At the time of negotiating and purchasing the lease and building the tenant was proposing to use the existing building as a gallery, museum or exhibition centre and wanted both the Wellington Botanic Garden Vesting Act and the Reserves Act to be revoked to allow for these uses.Ā  When it became apparent that these acts didnā€™t need to be removed or changed to allow for those activities the tenant changed their position, claiming the activities originally proposed did not make it economically viable to invest in the property.Ā  The tenant is now proposing a three-storey 24-room hotel as the only feasible option for the site, and this would need a revocation the reserve status.

The existing Skyline Restaurant building was built in 1984 and is certainly in need of some development.Ā  Even the WCC Strategy and policy committee report on the proposal notes:

ā€˜It is generally agreed that the building design and layout is flawed and not suitable for the site and a significant change is needed for the site to be successful and for it to contribute positively to this key area of the City. A reconfigured building with more obvious links to the Botanic Garden and surrounding activities would better serve the city and its visitors.ā€™

But the current tenant seems determined to have the reserve status revoked, resorting to threats to let the building fall into disrepair if that status is not change.

So does this site really require a change in legal status, as the developer insists, or is a new and improved building enough to make the site a viable business proposition?

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Andy says:

    Sounding an alarm. If a status change like this was to go ahead due to this sort of developer tactics, how many public spaces around the city would suddenly become fair game?

  • m-d says:

    “how many public spaces around the city would suddenly become fair game?” = Goodbye town belt? The question also has some relevance in terms of the Marine Centre proposal for the South Coast, although the line between public and private gain was a lot more slippery there.

    I’m also interested in the WCC comment in relation to the Skyline building: “ā€˜It is generally agreed that the building design and layout is flawed and not suitable for the site and a significant change is needed for the site to be successful and for it to contribute positively to this key area of the City.”

    …that doesn’t sound much like a building that could be awarded a national architectural award now does it as judged by our esteemed professionals at NZIA now does it? (which, perhaps, seriously calls into question the value of those awards more than anything else)

    It is also worthwhile pointing out that historians (Shaw, Hodgson, etc), have identified Ath’s Skyline building as a significant work of early NZ Postmodernism – perhaps we’ll see the heritage lobby also rise up in arms over this…?

  • Maximus says:

    Yes, it is something of a mystery as to how that particular building ever was granted the country’s highest architectural award…. as it certainly looks more like a deserted ruin at present, but then again, it was pretty awesome at the time. Woo-hoo! Trellis! Eye like an Octopus! Sort of weirdish post-modern shape! More trellis!

    Still – a work of national architecture surely needs more than just this. I went past last night – all the trellis has fallen off the cupola (not surprising, given that it was bare timber out in the open for 30 years). I would have thought: NWK ! (Not Worth Keeping).

  • m-d says:

    I would have thought the fish had more sympathy for the octopus!?

  • IS says:

    Shady dealings indeed. I’d be concerned about the floodgate effect of changing the reserve status to allow a hotel, but note that any such change has to be approved by the Central Government first.

    But then, what if the proposed was a worthy building, from a design sense, and included a public function on its ground floor, for example, a restaurant/cafe? Such an enterprise might end up being a win-win, and perhaps that is what is being suggested. But then who knows – and more to the point – why don’t we know – why the secrecy?

  • Maximus says:

    A question for you all, or at least for those who might know: why would WCC have to change the Reserve Status of the entire Park / Gardens / Town Belt, when all it really is the floor plate of a single building? Seems like a bit of an over-reaction to me. Over-reaction, or over-kill?

  • Maximus says:

    PS: Octopus eats Fish. Not other way round…. No friends lost there m-d…..

  • IS says:

    I was assuming the change of status was for the immediate site (but including car park perhaps). When I say floodgate, I mean other developers applying for similar status changes based on the precedent set in this case (if awarded). They would simply need to present the same argument, which WCC, even on a case-by-case basis, would find difficult to turn down. Little by little our reserves would be able to be chipped away into private interest holdings.