Wellington District Plan: The Wellington City Council’s decision must be reviewed.

June 10, 2024

LIVE WELLington has announced it will shortly lodge judicial review proceedings in the High Court.  These ask the Court to review the District Plan decision on character areas made by the Wellington City Council and the Minister for RMA Reform.

LIVE WELLington is an advocacy group for density done well.

The group (comprising more than 150 members) has been involved in the District Plan process from the beginning. 

LIVE WELLington believes that with smart urban design, Wellington’s iconic character areas can be retained at the same time as new, denser housing is introduced to the inner city and central city areas.

A statement from LIVE WELLington follows:

“The evidence presented during the recent District Plan process was clear – Wellington has sufficient land to meet housing needs and protect character areas.  The idea these are in conflict is false.

“Unfortunately, some councillors involved in decision-making have held a fixed and narrow view that character housing stands in the way of ‘affordable’ housing.  As a result, they have refused to engage with the evidence and arguments put forward that paint a different picture.

“Sadly we now need to go to Court to support evidence-based decision-making by our Council.

“Wellington City Council rejected recommendations put forward by the Independent Hearings Panel on this issue.  The Panel spent months listening to evidence and preparing careful and detailed recommendations in accordance with the law. 

“Among the evidence presented was that future growth needs can easily be accommodated without zoning for six storey heights across three quarters of Wellington’s inner-city suburbs.

“The Independent Hearings Panel recommended that 206 hectares of the current 307 hectares (two thirds) of character areas in Wellington be retained. This would still be compliant with the National Policy Statement on Urban Development and would accommodate 30 years of Wellington growth.

“The paltry reasons provided by the Council for their rejections of these recommendations indicate the move was based more on political performance than evidence or reasoning.

“The Council essentially refused to change the character areas from those set out in the proposed District Plan when first notified.  These largely mirrored those set out in the draft Spatial Plan, some years earlier. 

“The Council has repeatedly ignored both the evidence and its own officers’ recommendations on this issue.

“RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop likewise provided very few details regarding his reasoning and the matters he took into account, when accepting the Council’s recommendations.

“LIVE WELLington is dissatisfied with the approach decision-makers have taken throughout this process.  They have refused to even listen to points of view different to their own, or accept the evidence-based recommendations of the experts they appointed.

“A judicial review is a request to have the District Plan decisions regarding the character areas reviewed by the High Court. 

“This is not a decision we have entered into lightly however we believe the approach taken by the Council and the Minister need to be tested against the law.

“LIVE WELLington is taking this action to ensure decisions reflect the evidence.  This shows that iconic character areas can be retained at the same time as new, denser housing is introduced to the inner city and central city areas.”