Council report shows no need for radical planning changes in inner city Wellington

May 29, 2022

The latest official assessment of Wellington’s housing needs shows sufficient capacity in Wellington’s inner city suburbs to meet future growth for the next 30 years, meaning the drive by the council to decimate inner city character areas is unwarranted and must be abandoned now, says LIVE WELLington.

“The council has previously claimed that radical changes to the District Plan are needed to accommodate future growth in inner city Wellington, including stripping character area protections back by 70%,” says LIVE WELLington convenor Jane O’Loughlin.

“However the release of the most recent assessment of capacity in Wellington in the form of the Housing and Business Land Capacity Assessment (HBA) shows that in fact inner city suburbs have more than enough capacity under the existing District Plan rules.

“Additionally, the report says that the greatest unmet demand overall in the city will be in terrace housing. This shows the push to upzone great swathes of the city to 6 stories is unnecessary.

“We look forward to seeing these new insights being incorporated into the latest version of the new District Plan, when it is considered for release by councillors on 23 June.”

The Government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development demands that all areas within a walkable catchment of a city centre and rapid transit stops must enable building heights of at least six storeys unless there are ‘qualifying matters’ such as character and heritage values, says Jane O’Loughlin.

However the Wellington City Council has to date applied qualifying matters in a very limited way.  A majority of Wellington city councillors last year voted to remove nearly three-quarters of character protections from inner city suburbs, in the Spatial Plan, a precursor to the draft District Plan.

“Now the HBA has finally been released, councillors can adjust their thinking on character areas, and allow greater protection of character areas through the application of qualifying matters.

“As the NPS-UD stresses the need for evidence-based decision-making based on the HBA, it really is incumbent on the council to take this into account.”

Wellington’s inner city suburbs (Aro Valley, Berhampore, Mt Cook, Newtown and Mount Victoria) include the majority of Wellington’s character and heritage housing, and often feature in publicity photos of the capital city.

“Wellington’s character areas are a huge part of the city’s identity, and what makes the city attractive and liveable.  While adjustments to the protected areas are justified, we need to proceed carefully, as these houses, built from native timbers, are a valuable part of Wellington history.

“It is hugely significant to now have the evidence proving that radical changes to existing planning rules are not required.  The council will be on shaky ground if it does not respond to this report by retaining much more character protection than previously signalled.”


Facts about the inner city suburbs from the report

  • The HBA projects an overall shortfall for Wellington city of 10,000 dwellings over 30 years (to 2051). (p51)
  • This is made up entirely of demand for terrace dwellings – capacity for stand-alone dwellings and apartments already exists in the current settings (p53)
  • Inner Wellington (the inner city suburbs) faces an overall demand for 3,140 dwellings over the next 30 years, and can accommodate 3,509 dwellings under the settings of the current district plan, giving a surplus of 369 dwellings (p.54). This is in contrast to other areas of the city, where there is a projected shortfall.
  • Although the report shows a future shortfall of terrace dwellings in the Inner City, this is balanced by an excess capacity of apartments, with the report writers commenting that the market is likely to respond by building terrace housing rather than apartments. (p.55)

Resources: The Wellington chapter of the HBA