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For a Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) we can all call home.

We’re asking Wellington City Councillors to support the Spatial Plan so all generations of Wellingtonians can share the city we love, and have a chance to live in a home that is affordable, accessible, healthy and warm.

 

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Our Vision

Decades of inaction have meant house prices are out of control, while old rental properties rot out from underneath us. A whole generation of people are at risk of being forced out from the central city into new suburbs sprawling north, spending hours every day in traffic jams.

We believe the Spatial Plan will allow Wellington to plan for the future so that new generations of Wellingtonians can share the city we love, and have a chance to live in a home that is affordable, accessible, healthy and warm. 

We are a group of Wellingtonians from across the city who support the Wellington City Council’s proposed Spatial Plan.

We want a city built for people, with thriving communities, green spaces, and well designed buildings improving quality of life throughout our city, enabling people to live close to where they work, study, and socialise.

Supporting the Spatial Plan is an important step to help ensure the City Council puts people first and Wellington has affordable, sustainable communities and high-quality homes for generations to come.

 

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FAQ

  • The Spatial Plan is a “blueprint” for Wellington’s development, proposed by the City Council. It’s a “structure plan” under the Resource Management Act to show where the council is providing for growth, which is something that the central government requires of all councils in medium and high growth areas.

  • The Spatial Plan sets out where Wellington’s growth will be located, both upwards and outwards, and why.  It’s the direction-setting document that’s implemented by Council’s “rulebook” for development (the District Plan), and by Council investment in things like transport, parks, community centres, and pipes. Actual building of homes is a different thing; the Plans can only enable and control it.

  • Wellington doesn't have enough homes for everyone. The Council wants to have a strategy to deal with that, and a vital ingredient is a plan that sets out where growth should occur.

  • The District Plan will be reviewed and amended, so the rules specifying what’s allowed and not allowed reflect the growth direction set in the Spatial Plan. There will be opportunities to provide feedback on the District Plan review.  Until the new District Plan is fully in place (and there’s a lengthy process, plus people may fight parts of it in the Environment Court) the status quo rules will continue to apply. See WCC’s FAQ for more detail.

  • We can’t fix the housing crisis without building more homes, and the spatial plan will help get those homes built close to where people work, study, and socialise. But intensification alone won’t fix the housing crisis. 

    The Spatial Plan (and lots of other changes) will ease some of the current barriers – low height limits and blanket bans on demolition – that are preventing more homes being created in places that are near to things we need to do in our lives, which are natural 15-minute neighbourhoods

    The housing crisis also has lots of other dimensions besides not enough homes being created in cities, and the Spatial Plan doesn’t touch these dimensions. A good summary is in Generation Rent.

  • There’s so many complexities to New Zealand’s housing crisis that if we hold back progress on any one component until we’ve made progress on other stuff, we’ll never move forward. Also, some of those things are already improving, such as rental reform and improvements to the Building Act (MBIE here and here, and Planning Plus)

  • Yes, many people do. There is high demand for apartment living – people buying off the plans, and even going to the effort of doing cohousing – because they know they can have a good life in a well-designed, well-located apartment. Wellington has a gap in its market for apartments, but also for most of the other types of housing besides stand-alone homes. The Spatial Plan aims to see a range of housing available that gives people a good life, including apartments, townhouses, and standalone homes.

  • No, this is about getting more homes built. Some developers will make money by doing that, but that’s not the point: we have a housing shortage and developers build housing. The council and central government,  might also build more homes, but because we lack other large investors (e.g. the institutional housing investors that are more common overseas), developers making profit is the only meaningful way right now to get large numbers of new homes, at pace. See “People, Property and Public Good” on Talk WellingtonWe hope that the Spatial Plan and its successful implementation will mean more community housing developers and non-profits will build homes too. See more on this sector on Community Housing Aotearoa.

  • Good design for living is fundamentally about enabling people to mee the full spectrum of their human needs, and are universally applicable. What’s “ugly” or “looks good” is culturally and socially-defined, and varies lots over time, between people, and around the world.  This distinction applies to both the insides of a building and its outsides. Then there’s good urban environments (e.g. healthy streets, low traffic neighbourhoods, human-scaled spaces, connection to natural elements, etc).  The Density Done Well concept encompasses many of the fundamentals of good design for living in denser settlements (while problematically omitting a mana whenua dimension). 

    Having said all that, any new multi-unit development will need a resource consent (see question 6), which means council officers scrutinise designs before granting consent. This process isn’t infallible: Wellington has plenty of examples of well-designed buildings and urban spaces, and lots that aren’t good – including new ones whose designs have been scrutinised by council officers.      

    The short answer is: there’s no guarantee, but council say they’re going to pay more attention to good design, “residential amenity” and ensuring that new development makes a positive contribution to the neighbourhood.  Auckland has a Design Manual and Design Panel to improve the odds that new buildings are good quality design and appropriate for their context. We’d like to see something similar for Wellington.

  • Every multi-unit development will require resource consent and in deciding whether to give consent the council looks at the design. The Council says they’re going to pay more attention to things like “residential amenity” and ensuring that new development makes a positive contribution to the neighbourhood. More information is available hereWhen Auckland set up its Unitary Plan, they created the Auckland Design Panel which helps ensure new buildings are good quality design and appropriate for their context. This is an approach we would endorse for Wellington.

  • No. Heritage-listed buildings will remain protected. The draft Spatial Plan protects “sub character areas” that the pre-1930s character area review considered to exhibit a “cohesive streetscape character”. The demolition ban is only being lifted on formerly-declared Character Areas that no longer exhibit a cohesive streetscape character or where character has been compromised. Owners of houses that are not heritage-listed and not in sub-character areas can demolish these if they wish – nothing’s changed there.

  • Wellington’s old pipes need modernising, which was overdue well before the Spatial Plan. While councils bear a lot of the responsibility for delayed maintenance, NZ’s system of funding for infrastructure like water and sewerage pipes is not fit-for-purpose, and any city’s initiatives must be seen in that context. Having said that, the single most efficient way to fund upgrades and maintenance of “horizontal infrastructure” (roads, pipes and suchlike) is by having lots of people living near them.  This increased value being got from the land means more people helping pay for the infrastructure that enables them to live, work and play there. The Spatial Plan enables better efficiency in infrastructure investment by concentrating growth around existing centres, and making forward planning easier.  The Council and central government have a programme of work in place to upgrade Wellington’s pipes, which is under the umbrella of the nationwide Three Waters Reform.  Finally, newer buildings with denser use can also be made more water-friendly, with things like retention systems [PDF] for stormwater and sewage reducing the burden on the pipes.

  • Not necessarily. Much of Wellington’s traffic comes from outer suburbs that aren’t well served by buses and trains. More homes close to where people work, study, and socialise can reduce the need to drive a car, meaning less traffic on the road. The lowest car ownership and car use rates in Wellington are, unsurprisingly, people in central Wellington – where the proximity of places to work, learn, rest, and play makes car-free or low-car life much easier. Building more housing in well-connected areas, as proposed under the draft Spatial Plan, will mean more people can choose not to own and run and store their own private car, which enables a host of good things. In Wellington we’re in a transition phase heading towards that; we’re definitely not there yet, and in the short term there may well be a blip upwards in car traffic congestion in some places. A small step forward is the removal of the current Minimum Parking Requirement: providing carparks encourages car ownership and car use, so it’s good that the new Parking Policy will let a landowner or developer choose whether to provide carparking according to whether the prospective buyers are willing to pay for it (in the order of $20-40,000 per carpark on top of the dwelling cost).

  • The draft Spatial Plan acknowledges some special characteristics of suburbs – like some big trees in Island Bay. Council say there will be “place-based community planning exercises” happening after or in parallel with the District Plan review (subsequent to approving the Spatial Plan).  These will cover investment in transport and all kinds of infrastructure including social and “placemaking” infrastructure: parks, community centres, public realm spaces, pipes and transport.  

  • We all have a moral obligation to enable more New Zealanders to live decent lives and contribute to our society and economy, and the single best way to do that is for people to be able to live in centres near to good stuff we all want to do. Even if no-one wanted to move to Wellington ever again, we already have a major shortage of good homes in Wellington: we urgently need in the order of 4,000-12,000 homes.  It’s grossly unfair to shut out some communities – overwhelmingly the young, the less affluent, people of colour - from living in our centres. Furthermore, local governments in metropolitan areas (Wellington) are legally obliged to provide for growth by the National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

  • The supply dimension of the housing crisis (see question 2) needs more homes for everyone.  Social housing – publicly-subsidised housing for people in direst need – is a vital part, but many others  are also locked out of affordable housing to rent or to buy.  The approach of the draft Spatial Plan is to remove unnecessary barriers to building all kinds of housing.  Community Housing Aotearoa has useful definitions.

  • The draft Spatial Plan assumes that about 14% of property owners in upzoned areas will build additional homes on their properties. This means we need to upzone a larger area in order to ensure enough housing gets built to meet Wellington’s needs.  The 14% is because the government cannot force owners to sell their property and / or make the large capital investment to develop it into housing. The conditions have to be right for people to choose do so. Further, all areas that can be 15-minute neighbourhoods – close to amenities and able to offer people a good life – should accommodate lots of people. So these areas should be upzoned unless there’s an extremely strong public-good reason not to.

  • There is no evidence of an empty-dwellings issue that would contribute meaningfully to Wellington’s housing situation, and even if there was, there are serious challenges with forcing “empty house” landowners to develop or rent out their property. Firstly, we don’t have thousands of holiday homes or empty apartments like some cities do. What we do have is an overheated housing market that makes it far more lucrative for a property owner to sell or rent out a dwelling than to sit on it, uninhabited. The Housing and Business Capacity Assessment found that when taking everything into account, including the likelihood of development and the current lucrative housing market, Wellington is currently short of 4,000 homes at least. There’s no evidence that “activating” under-utilised homes would make any meaningful contribution to fixing the problem. Secondly, there is currently no government power that can force owners to “activate” an “underutilised” property (sell it or develop it for housing, or rent it out). Thirdly, all areas that can be 15-minute neighbourhoods – close to amenities and able to offer people a good life – should accommodate lots of people. So these areas should be upzoned unless there’s an extremely strong public-good reason not to.

  • It’s unfair to lock younger people and poorer people out of suburban centres and city centres.  We all have a moral obligation to enable more New Zealanders to live decent lives and contribute to our society and economy, and the overwhelmingly best way to do that is to live in places near to good stuff we all want to do. 

    Transport costs can quickly cancel out the cheaper cost of renting or buying in a far-flung suburb, and as there are fewer amenities in these suburbs, people will be compelled to go elsewhere to work and socialise. So they’ll be forced to swallow those high transport costs.    

    The government bans councils from only providing for growth in one type of place: the National Policy Statement on Urban Development requires them to provide for growth by providing choice in both housing typology and in location. 

    The Planning for Growth engagement about where and how Wellington should grow was conclusive: heavy majorities in favour of developing around existing suburban centres, and Wellington city centre.  

    Once our far-flung, low-density suburbs intensify and start providing some benefits of agglomeration [PDF], they’ll be able to offer more people a village or a “15 minute-neighbourhood” life. But until then, it’s not fair to lock people out of living in places it’s possible to have a full life without travelling heaps.

  • Good design for living is fundamentally about enabling people to mee the full spectrum of their human needs, and are universally applicable. What “looks good” is culturally and socially-defined, and varies lots over time, between people, and around the world. This distinction applies to both the insides of a building and its outsides. Then there’s good urban environments, including healthy streets, low traffic neighbourhoods, human-scaled spaces, connection to natural elements and more.

    The Density Done Well concept encompasses many of the fundamentals of good design for living in denser settlements. Wellington has some examples of well-designed buildings and urban spaces and some that aren’t so good - old as well as new.    

    The short answer is: there’s no guarantee, but council say they’re going to pay more attention to it. Auckland has a Design Manual and Design Panel to consider new developments and we would hope that Wellington follows their lead in order to encourage well-designed development.

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We're a non-partisan group of Wellingtonians who share a progressive and sustainable vision for Wellington. We see the Spatial Plan as an important opportunity to put people first and make a plan to share our city as it grows. Sign up to recieve updates.