The Oriental Bay Residents Association has the sent the following submission to the Wellington City Council on 17 May 2019:
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:
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.
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.
A variety of development options be encouraged, subject to meeting cost–benefit and sustainability standards.
Meaningful consultation with residents and other parties affected by any spatial development proposal be mandatory.
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.”
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:
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.
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).
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.
The mixed housing along Oriental Parade, both high-rise and individual houses, which are so important to the character of Oriental Bay.
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.
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.