JCA on Council’s Planning For Growth project

(image -WCC)Stand by for 50,000 to 80,000 more Wellingtonians in the next 30 years — with at least 22,000 of this new population moving in to North Wellington — including Johnsonville.

North Wellington’s projected population is the greatest of any area apart from the central city.

Wellington City Council‘s Planning For Growth project is about what needs to happen to accommodate all these extra people … so bear with us, this is quite a long post.

Wellington City Council’s thinking so far

WCC invited feedback on four big picture scenarios to fociusing on how Wellington could grow, and the trade-offs that would need to be made.

  1. Scenario 1: Inner City — More growth in the inner city; high rise apartments;  lots of infrastructure improvements to central city to cope; more small parks;
  2. Scenario 2: Suburban Centres — medium density residential development around suburban centres like Kilbirnie, Miramar, and Johnsonville, replacing houses with 3-4 storey apartment blocks. Johnsonville would be a target growth area because it has a degree of earthquake resilience that many other parts of the city do not. “Vibrancy and commerce would be boosted” which sounds nice. WCC admits a lot of work would be needed to upgrade community facilities; infrastructure; public transport; recreational spaces
  3. Scenario 3: Ohariu ValleyTown — Replace lifestyle blocks, farms and horses in Ihariu Valley with a new suburb of 15,000 people.
  4. Scenario 4: “greenfield extensions” — new suburbs in Takapu and Horokiwi valleys.

Council has promised that we’ll see a “visual spatial plan” in November 2019, which is conveniently after the Local Body Election in early October! If all goes as they currently plan, the Spatial Plan will be agreed by mid 2020, and by late 2020 they will write rules about where and how development can occur into the Draft District Plan.


Johnsonville Community Association’s position

JCA says living in and around Johnsonville must be pert of the livability that Wellington is well known for. This includes urban and surrounding landscape; good public and private transport infrastructure/ services; resilient and complete neighborhoods (not just suburban sprawl), a diverse and robust local economy, vibrant public spaces, and affordability. And in this and every other community, walking and cycling should be safe, comfortable, interesting.

JCA has recommended that Wellington City Council proceed with a mixture of Scenarios 1 and 4 because they provide the best opportunity to meet the demands of future population growth. 

Whichever scenario or combination Wellington City Council chooses, it must address the following key issues:

  1. People need good infrastructure.
  2. Legal error over zoning of Eastern hillside for higher density housing
  3. People need nearby jobs

Issue 1: North Wellington people need good infrastructure

Every scenario adds at least 22,000 people to North Wellington. But in North Wellington, all infrastructure is at capacity now, and none of the scenarios presented by the Council does more than pay lip service to the infrastructure that must also be planned.

Any sensible conversation about adding tens of thousands more people to any part of Wellington must include roads, sewage, water supply, storm water, public facilities, parks and recreation, public transport and other services that help a community thrive. For example, Let’s Get Wellington Moving focuses on the suburbs facing the least anticipated population increase, yet it makes zero provision for mass rapid transport to the area that will have the greatest increase — Johnsonville and neighbouring suburbs..

Issue 2: Eastern hillside can’t be zoned for higher density housing

Within the issue of population planning scenarios, there is a glaring legal error. The maps in the consultation document suggest WCC planners plan to have high density development on the eastern hillside above the SH1 motorway. This is legally wrong.

The Environment Court judgement on the Johnsonville Area of Change specifically excluded this area. The court accepted evidence that “Johnsonville East” is unsuited for higher density residential development because of inadequate road access and very poor pedestrian access to facilities. WCC must clarify that the hillside to the east of SH1 is not under consideration for Area of Change designation.

Issue 3: Employment for additional population

Every Scenario considers where up to 80,000 more people will live but does not properly address where they will work. It is neither logical nor fair nor good planning to assume that new residents all need to seek employment in or near the CBD.

The urban planning — including the new District Plan — must actively align future employment growth closer to where the Scenario population growth will occur. Having more residents working closer to where they live will remove some future pressure on transport systems, support wider lifestyle options for future residents, deliver climate change benefits, and help bolster emergency resilience.

JCA would like to see the council align the scenarios with plans for increasing employment opportunities and business growth; do not assume that future jobs will have to be in the CBD. One way to address this would be to require major redevelopment in suburban business zones to expand future employment capacity for the area.


JCA commentary on Planning For Growth Scenarios

Scenario 1 – inner city


Growth Scenario 1 – inner city

JCA supports Scenario 1.

The CBD has large-scale infrastructure in a tight area and residents have the best opportunity to use active modes of transport including walking, cycling and scooting. This scenario puts the least pressure on Wellington’s overloaded public transport and arterial roads.

For this scenario to work well, the council must continue to support the private transport needs of inner city residents. Having large apartment developments without supporting off-street parking will mean public parking spots are taken up by inner city residents, making it hard for suburbanites to visit and park in the central city.


Scenario 2 – suburban centre focus

JCA does not support Scenario 2.

Growth scenario-2

Growth scenario-2 – built-up suburbs

The JCA lacks confidence in Wellington City Council’s ability to plan and implement the required improvements to public transport and community facilities in suburban Area of Change zones.

When it imposed the Area of Change onto Johnsonville, the WCC promised significant improvements to public transport and roading, yet much of the promised improvements have not been implemented. Also, the council is yet to make good on its current promise to complete the Johnsonville Triangle roading improvements on Moorefield Road. Just as important was the promise under the Johnsonville Area of Change Design Guide that multi-unit residential developments would be of high quality and would comply with District Plan minimum requirements. However, Council planners routinely permit non-compliant and poor quality residential developments across North Wellington.


Scenario 3 – New greenfield in Ohariu Valley

JCA says this is just plain daft.

scenario-3-circle-highlight-04It is daft to include such a pie-in-the-sky idea in this consultation document without providing even elementary information on the major infrastructure changes required.

This scenario must include at least two major arterial access roads to the South and North of the valley. The consultation document makes no mention of such roads. For example, for southern access to the valley, there would be only three ways to do it:

  • Punch a large tunnel through Mt Kau Kau to Ngaio Gorge; or
  • Demolish dozens of homes in Johnsonville, hugely increase traffic on already congested roads in Johnsonville, and expand Ngauranga Gorge; or
  • Demolish a hundred or so homes in Karori and expand Karori Tunnel and Lord knows what after that.

The JCA might support this scenario if it could be seen how the council would ensure this would be achieved in a cost-effective and timely way.


Scenario 4 – Greenfield extensions

scenario-4-JCA is in favour of Scenario 4

… conditional on key transport improvements, including the Petone to Grenada Link Road, are completed.

Greenfield extension areas of residential zones in Lincolnshire Farm and Takapu Valley are possible providing the council can the right infrastructure provisioned for the population growth. Also the Transmission Gully Project will provide improved opportunities for access from this area to and from the North and South.

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