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5 November 2012

Submission on North Kumutoto design brief

This is the submission of the Wellington Civic Trust to Wellington City Council – Kumutoto Design COCMO2

  1. The Wellington Civic Trust (‘the Trust’) would like to congratulate the Council on this public consultation exercise on the draft Design Brief that will be used to guide the future development of the Kumutoto area of Wellington’s waterfront. As could be seen by the packed Committee room on Thursday evening 1st November, there is a high level of interest in this area of the waterfront. We are pleased to note that the draft Design Brief aims to fulfil the general objectives outlined in the Waterfront Framework 2001, which the Trust has consistently supported as part of its policy. The Design Brief’s commitment that all future developments in this area will be subject to public notification is strongly supported. This should always have been the case. 
  2. We applaud the Environment Court decision which ensures that Site 8 will be open space in perpetuity. We do not agree that the Environment Court decision compels the Council to allow maximum height and 100% building coverage development on Sites 9 & 10.
  3. We are aware that commercial development remains the strategy of the Council and its subsidiary, Wellington Waterfront Ltd, in order to fund wharf maintenance, open space development, and pile replacement. We are not convinced that maximising commercial development in this area is the only way to ensure funding. This issue could be addressed by more creative user-pays solutions, and less ambitious expenditure on public spaces. The campervan park is an example of the former, and low cost seating and tree planting is an acceptable alternative to grand design (for example, the enhancement of Oruaiti Pa site is an excellent example of low scale quality development).
  4. That the Council has committed to completing the development of North Kumutoto need not require that the whole of Sites 9 & 10 be covered by buildings. In particular, we are of the opinion that to accord with 1.1 General Design Principles “this area has a strong connection to the CBD”, the building envelop on Site 10 should be set back to align with the NZ Post building, both mitigating the tunnel effect of the view shaft from Whitmore Street, and maintaining the view of the historic Eastbourne Ferry building from the Quays. Similarly, any building on Site 9 should include the Design Brief requirement to align with Sheds 11& 13, both architecturally and in bulk.
  5. Similarly, we are not persuaded that both Sites 9 and 10 should be able to build to their northern and southern boundaries respectively. Rather than “providing a gateway” to the waterfront when viewed from Whitmore Street, they would serve only to narrow the present viewshaft and further separate the waterfront from the CBD in a manner contrary to the general goal of connecting the two.
  6. The Draft Design Brief is silent on the matter of the wind-funnel effect of two large bulky buildings in this location. It is well known that the Whitmore Street vicinity is one of the windiest locations in Wellington, with pedestrians often fighting to stay upright while waiting for crossing lights. Before any thought is given to maximum height and site coverage of these buildings, independent research should be commissioned to ensure the wind-tunnel effect will not be exacerbated. The Trust also suggests that independent wind tunnel analysis be a fixed prerequisite for all new structures on the waterfront.
  7. Although there is much mention of shelter, there is little attention apparently paid to shadowing effects. Two large buildings in this vicinity will cast long shadows in the afternoon which will detract from the waterfront experience which present users enjoy. Again, independently produced shade diagrams should be commissioned as a prerequisite.
  8. Graham McIndoe (Waterfront Technical Advisory Group) at the 1 November 2012 consultation public meeting stated that there is no intention of improving pedestrian access from the CBD to North Kumutoto to align with more intensive development in this area. There is at present only one pedestrian crossing from Whitmore Street to the area. This is at odds with 2.2 of the Draft Design Brief which notes that “improving pedestrian access across the heavily trafficked quays is critical to the success of the waterfront development”. The Design Brief needs to include clearer guidance on how developments will improve the CBD-waterfront access in this area, including all-weather access to the north of Site 10 and to the Railway Station. To concerns raised at the meeting about the existing covered pedestrian access through Shed 21 (unsafe, uninviting, unfinished), Mr McIndoe speculated that these were perhaps now irreversible, with ownership and control having passed to private interests. This situation needs to be avoided with any new building developments in this area, and warrants explicit inclusion in the Design Brief.
  9. The Trust believes that adopting the Environment Court decision doggedly i.e. open space Site 8, buildings Sites 9 & 10, does not give proper consideration to the overall environmental effects in this area, and nor does it permit consideration of viable options. The Design Brief need not preclude fresh approaches devised for the area which could include:
    • alternative uses for Sites 9 & 10;
    • exploration of the viability of tourist and visitor-based activities, including retaining/expanding the present campervan site, a tourist information office, cafés with generous outdoor seating areas, water-based activities, covered recreational areas with visual access for passing pedestrians, and market stalls;
    • low-level buildings on Sites 9 & 10 which are sympathetic to surrounding architecture;
    • an overall plan for all three sites which should incorporate common architectural elements (like Sheds 11 & 13), linking landscape elements, all-weather pedestrian links, and improved access to the CBD.
  1. The Trust notes that there should be no undue haste in redeveloping the North Kumutoto area. There are present uses, albeit low key, which ensure the area is attractive to travellers, tourists, pedestrians, office workers and cyclists. There appears little imminent danger of the wharf areas becoming hazardous in the near future, as present uses do not exert excessive loading.

Thank you for this opportunity to submit to the Draft Design Brief. We look forward to presenting our submissions, and trust that the Council has an open mind beyond the “permissions” of the Environment Court decision for this gateway waterfront area.

Alan Smith
04 566 3034 | 027 285 6304

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