Submission on: Our City Tomorrow — Planning for Growth

The Oriental Bay Residents Association has the sent the following submission to the Wellington City Council on 17 May 2019:

1. Introduction

The Executive Committee of the Oriental Bay Residents Association has considered the Council’s consultation document Our City Tomorrow – Planning for Growth. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the document. While the central focus of the Association is the Oriental Bay suburb, we suggest many of our comments have applicability to the wider Wellington Region. 

The “Planning for Growth” document is motivated by the need to plan for expected population growth of between 50,000 and 80,000 over the next 30 years. Its purpose is to receive feedback to help the Council create a residential spatial plan to accommodate this growth in a way commensurate with the interests and needs of Wellington residents. The “Planning for Growth” document provides four scenarios of city development to facilitate this process. 

We are encouraged by the comment on the submission form that these scenarios “do not offer a ‘one or other’ solution”. This is an important point to emphasise. Unfortunately, we are aware that some people have interpreted the options in the “Planning for Growth” document as if they are a set of binary choices and are expected to make a choice between options. The motive for the submission questionnaire is therefore unclear to some people.  Moreover, many questions posit choices that are not clearly related.

There are several reasons why diversity of types of residential development is important. People’s residential preferences differ, and these can change over their lifetime, and societal tastes and preferences change over time. Furthermore, the vulnerability to earthquake damage, expected sea-level rise and other climate change effects, mean the risks for residential living can vary by location. The creation of different types of city development provides an opportunity to diversify risks. 

As the “Planning for Growth” submission form notes, each scenario has trade-offs. The questionnaires pertaining to options would appear to be an effort to try to understand Wellingtonians’ opinions about some of the trade-offs. While this is admirable, without more fundamental information (eg, the costs of new infrastructure for green-field developments relative to those for suburban or inner-city intensification), it is difficult to make informed choices. Moreover, the trade-offs will vary by degree of development, precise location, etc. There may also be other viable options not considered in the survey.  All options have their pros and cons.

Therefore, we encourage the Council to develop and seek agreement on a set of principles to guide decisions on city development.  While these principles may need to vary by type of development and location (although we are not yet convinced that this will indeed be the case) adherence to agreed principles should be a mandatory requirement of implementation of new developments.  

2. OVERARCHING PRINCIPLES

Our proposed principles are as follows:

  1. In assessing a development option, consideration be given to sustainability and resilience to risks such as potential damage from earthquake and sea-level changes, for example.

  2. Proposals be consistently assessed by robust cost–benefit analysis that considers costs of service infrastructure, appropriate provision of recreational space, educational services, health and other social services, commuting needs, environmental implications, etc. 

  3. A variety of development options be encouraged, subject to meeting cost–benefit and sustainability standards. 

  4. Meaningful consultation with residents and other parties affected by any spatial development proposal be mandatory.

  5. Special care be taken, and processes adopted, to protect important heritage features of Wellington and architectural and scenic features that give the city character and international appeal. 

 

3. ORIENTAL BAY

Oriental Bay clearly falls within the Inner-city category, and there are important issues to consider for the area with respect to the development options in the PfG document. OBRA recognises that options that involve urban sprawl (such as ‘new green-fields suburbs’) can encroach on valuable cultivatable land, impact on bio-diversity and can threaten the sustainability of species. They can also involve costly new infrastructure. On the other hand, inner-city and suburban intensification options should recognise special features of each inner-city and suburban area.

There are several features of the Oriental Bay area we would like to emphasise, should the area be affected by inner-city development options. We note that Appendix 5 of the Wellington City Council District Plan Design Guides states that:

 “Council recognises the potential of Oriental Parade for future high-density residential development. However, it is important to ensure that new development along Oriental Parade is of high design quality and enhances the area’s collective character, amenity value and public significance.”[1]

The Plan recognises that:

“Oriental Parade is a visually prominent residential area with a unique character and strong identity. But it is not a typical residential suburb … In townscape terms it is a unique high-density residential environment with an urban character, strong recreational dimension and public significance. Creating the foreground of views to Oriental Bay, it is a distinctive element of Wellington’s urban image. The area is an established recreational    destination and an integral part of the city’s public environment … it is important to ensure that new development along Oriental Parade is of high design quality and enhances the area’s collective character, amenity value and public significance.” 

The unique features of Oriental Bay recognised in the District Plan make Oriental Bay a drawcard for tourists and contribute to the city’s international reputation. Nevertheless, it already has high density of housing. While some suburbs may be considerably improved by the approach in “Planning for Growth”, the scope for further intensification in Oriental Bay is limited in terms of space and appropriate design. 

We find it difficult to envisage any place for large multi-storey apartment blocks in Oriental Bay without damaging the view shafts of existing residents and destroying the attractive balance we currently have with apartments and character housing. Unfortunately, there already exist examples of high-rise apartment buildings that have been built without due regard to retaining the special characteristics of the area, and without ensuring adequate view shafts toward the harbour from all parts of the suburb. 

There are also several iconic features that are central to the character of the Oriental Bay and Mt Victoria region that need to be recognised in future development plans. These include:

  1. St Gerard’s Monastery. This is an iconic feature of Wellington visible from many parts of the city and the harbour. It is a part of Wellington that is admired internationally. The city development plan should recognise and protect this precinct and create plans to ensure the visibility of this feature, and buildings should be in character with the precinct and not block any angle views of the Monastery.

  2. The Victorian-Edwardian-style homes that characterise the slopes of Mt Victoria and provide a unique character to the city view-scape of the area (particularly along McFarlane Street and Hawker Street). These iconic homes are an architectural feature that provides diversity of buildings, city character and is another aspect of the area that is important to tourism. An important aspect of this streetscape is its largely holistic nature (ie, heritage areas should not be considered on a building-by-building basis, but also as a whole).

  3. The walkways involving Oriental Terrace at the western end of Oriental Bay and linking Roseneath and the Bay between The Crescent and Oriental Parade (including several small parks and city lookouts) and Grass Street. These are special features that enhance inner-city living and attract numerous tourists. These walkways also provide a link from the city and Oriental Bay onto Mt Victoria and its Lookout and walkways.

  4. The mixed housing along Oriental Parade, both high-rise and individual houses, which are so important to the character of Oriental Bay.

  5. The ‘Seven Sisters’ group of houses along Oriental Parade are a notable example of well-maintained period homes in the area and are some of the most significant buildings in Oriental Bay. The architect Charlesworth’s own villa was sadly replaced by Clifton Towers, a development that destroyed a beautiful period home and compromised harbour views from many parts of the suburb. 

  6. The Band Rotunda on the harbour side of Oriental Parade is another iconic feature.

The Oriental Bay Residents Association believes that special care needs to be taken to ensure that the character of Oriental Bay is not undermined. The principles of the current pre-1930-character protection legislation must be retained and adhered to.

We are grateful for the opportunity to comment on the “Planning for Growth” document. We encourage the Council to consider the proposed five principles for governing the process of planning for growth, and to protect the special features and iconic buildings that exist in Oriental Bay. We would be very happy to engage further with the Council on this topic. We were encouraged by the outcome of the Waitangi Park to Freyberg Pool cycleway process. This is an example of what can be achieved when the Council embraces meaningful consultation and responds to concerns and ideas of residents.

Thank you. Members of the Oriental Bay Residents Association look forward to further engagement with the Council in this process. 

 

Take extra care at Point Jerningham

From 23 April, you will need to allow a little more time if you are travelling around Evans Bay.

Work starts near Ōmarukaikuru / Point Jerningham after Easter. Wellington City Council contractors will be  improving the seawalls, creating more space for people, and putting in the first 800 m of a new two-way harbour-side bike path. You’ll still be able to walk, jog, bike and drive, but traffic will often be down to one lane, Monday to Friday, 9am–4pm. For safety reasons, the speed limit through the work zone will be 30 km/h at all times.

Find out more about the project here, see the before and after sliders, or watch the video to see how things are changing.

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E-scooters: a letter to the Mayor

The Oriental Bay Residents Association has sent the following letter to the Mayor of Wellington, Justin Lester:

19 February 2019
Mayor Justin Lester,
Wellington City Council,
cc. Cr Sarah Free, Cr Iona Pannett, Cr Nicola Young.

 Dear Justin Lester,

Shared access of footpaths and cycleways

Members of the Executive Committee of the Oriental Bay Residents Association (OBRA) have received expressions of concern from some residents regarding the growing diversity of use of footpaths and the implications this has for the safety of pedestrians. 

This issue is of course not peculiar to our region. However, it is perhaps more acute for the Oriental Bay area than for many other parts of the Wellington region. In addition to the dense residential population, you will appreciate that the Bay is a popular recreational area for residents from across Wellington and for tourists from outside Wellington. It is also a corridor between the city and the eastern suburbs of Wellington for cyclists, pedestrians and people using emerging alternative forms of commuting such as electric scooters and electric skateboards. Oriental Bay is also a busy corridor for motorists. The roads and footpaths in Oriental Bay can become very congested during certain times of the day and particularly during summer weekends. 

The demographic profile of the residents of Oriental Bay is another factor that has prompted the Committee to raise this issue with you. The suburb has a relatively high proportion of residents in the older age range. According to the 2013 Census, 25.8 per cent of Oriental Bay residents were aged 65 years or older. This compares with 9.5 per cent for the entire Wellington City. The proportion may be even higher today. The percentage of the Oriental Bay residents falling within this age range increased faster between 2006 and 2013 than the average for Wellington City. The equivalent percentage in the 2006 Census was 19.6 for Oriental Bay compared to 8.4 per cent for Wellington City.

The recently completed cycleway (access-way dedicated to cyclists) between the Freyberg Pool complex and Waitangi Park appears to be successfully diverting cyclists from the footpath and separating cyclists and pedestrians along this stretch of the waterfront. Further, the sharing of the pathway east of the Freyberg complex to date generally seems to have operated without major incident. However, the growing popularity of electric scooters and skateboards and their use on footpaths raises further concerns for the safety of pedestrians. Evidently, electric scooters and skateboards are permitted on cycleways (such as the Oriental  Bay cycleway). But there remain congested areas of the Oriental Bay where a single pathway caters for cycles, electric scooters, skateboards, crocodile-bikes and pedestrians. 

We have been advised that the Ministry of Transport has been asked by the Government to develop terms of reference for a possible national inquiry into the shared use of footpaths and making streets accessible for multiple forms of transport. We also understand that some local body councils may be taking their own initiative. A recent news item suggested that the Wellington City Council will be reviewing a report proposing an electric scooter trial, but that the use of electric scooters would be restricted from use on the city's “Golden Mile” or Botanic Gardens

The purpose of this letter is to open a dialogue with you and the Wellington City Council regarding the shared use of footpaths and cycleways in the Oriental Bay area. We are conscious of the need to accommodate a range of interests, including the growing popularity of alternative modes of commuting, and recognise the growing popularity of bicycles and more recently the use of electric scooters and electric skateboards. As representatives of Oriental Bay residents and in the interests of improving the use and safety of footpaths and cycleways in the area, we would like to raise the following points regarding the Oriental Bay area: 

  1. We invite yourself and members of the Wellington City Council to consult with the OBRA executive committee and residents of Oriental Bay regarding the shared use of pathways in the Oriental Bay area by pedestrians, cyclists, electric scooters, etc, and appraise us and residents of the  proposed trial of electric scooters in the region. 

  2. It would be appreciated if this appraisal and consultation could include discussion of the issues pertaining to shared pathways and/or dedicated pedestrian pathways and cycleways east of the Freyberg Pool complex, including along the waterfront and beyond Carlton Gore Road. We encourage the Council to take into consideration the already congested use of the Oriental Bay footpaths, particularly where there are no dedicated cycleways. 

  3. Although there have been frequent reports of incidents involving electric scooters overseas, it is difficult to assess the risks to pedestrians of unregulated shared pathways. We note nevertheless there are instances in some cities (such as Sydney and Vancouver) where there are speed limits applying to shared pathways and wealso note that electrical scooters are illegal on British roads and pavements.We would encourage the Council to look at the experience overseas, and where cycles, electric scooters, etc, are entitled to share footpaths, consideration be given to the safety of pedestrians in the Oriental Bay region, particularly in view of the congestion of the footpaths and the demographic profile of the area.

  4. We think there may be merit in a suitable speed limit for cycles, electronic scooters and similar devices on shared footpaths, one that is consistent with ensuring safety for all users of the pathways. We appreciate that monitoring and ensuring compliance with speed-limits may be difficult to enforce. We understand the NZ Automobile Association has suggested a limit of 10 km/h. These speed limits may have the effect of providing a clear signal of expected behaviour. Education of the shared use of footpaths may also have merit.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues.
We look forward to your response.

Kind regards,
Ann Mallinson and Jackie Pope
Co-Presidents,
Oriental Bay Residents Association (Incorporated),
Wellington.

Cycleway Approved

The revised plans (see  the item below) for the Oriental Bay cycleway have been approved by the Wellington City Council. (For more information, see the article in the DominionPost "Green Light for New Cycleways on Thorndon Quay, Evan's Bay and Oriental Parade".)

Accordingly, the Council chose to disregard the various recommendations that OBRA (in conjunction with Rex Nichols) included in its last submission. This submission is attached
We are disappointed, because we believed that these recommendations were:

  • for the benefit of all Wellingtonians, as well as local residents,
  • recognised the reality of the current complex mix of users,
  • endeavoured to achieve balance, and promote fairness and safety for all.

However, we can say that the revised plan as approved is at least a major improvement on the draft plans as initially proposed in the early stages of consultation last year. 

We are pleased to advise that Council continue to consult with us on various implementation issues, including

  • speed limits and various signage
  • education and enforcement steps to achieve appropriate behaviour
  • design of the “transition” areas  at the beginning and end of the new cycleway path.

Revised Cycleway Proposal

The Wellington City Council has announced a revised plan for the Oriental Bay Cycleway, with a separate two-way cycle path, footpaths and angle parking. This plan is the basis for the formal consultation period of 30 days from 20 February, after which the Council will proceed to a decision.

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Key features are:
• The existing 4.5m-wide shared path would become a designated footpath on the seaward side of the trees.
• There would be a two-way 2.5m-wide bike path between the parking and pohutukawa trees, with a 1.8m-wide designated footpath between the parking and bike path.
• Overall, the amount of parking would increase from 61 spaces to 64 spaces; 58 would be angle car parks, with 6 new parallel car parks replacing the bus stop near Herd Street.
• The bus stop near Herd Street would be removed on the advice of Greater Wellington Regional Council (there are outbound bus stops nearby at Waitangi Park and Freyberg Pool).
• The three existing mobility parks at Freyberg Pool would be retained.
• The kerb would be moved out into the road to make room for the bike path and new footpath.
• Traffic lanes would be narrowed (from 4-4.2m to 3.3m).
• The painted median strip would be narrowed (2.2m to 2m).
• There would be new motorbike parking near the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.
• Parking time limits would remain unchanged.
• The pedestrian crossing near the yacht club would be redesigned to go straight across the road, with a central island, no barriers and a kerb extension on the seaward side.
• All existing trees would be retained.

You can see the full plans (4.4MB PDF), and view how the proposed changes compare to the current layout.