Wellingtonians support retention of more character areas

June 14, 2022

A survey of Wellingtonians has found that while there is support for increasing density in the inner city suburbs, it must be done with care, and there is considerable unease about the Wellington City Council’s plans to remove protections for pre-1930s houses in the inner city suburbs.

The survey was commissioned by LIVE WELLington ahead of a council meeting on 23 June where councillors will vote to notify a District Plan that may see around two-thirds of demolition protections for pre-1930s homes in the inner city suburbs removed, to allow six storey apartment blocks to be built.

“We don’t yet know what is in the next iteration of the District Plan, however to date the elected councillors have not heeded submissions from the public on this subject, nor have they listened to the advice of their own staff.  This poll helps them understand the views of Wellingtonians and hopefully make changes to the District Plan while they still can,” says LIVE WELLington convenor Jane O’Loughlin.

“People do want increased density and more housing but not at the expense of risking great swathes of our character suburbs, or by losing sunlight and privacy in their own homes.

“Both home owners and renters are of a similar view; that character has value, and we need to strike a careful balance between making room for more development and the effect on the communities and character areas we have now.

“In fact, this should not be a polarised debate.  There is sufficient room for the new housing demand we expect to see over the next 30 years in the inner city suburbs.  We can have the housing we need and keep the character we love.”

Roughly three-quarters of respondents said they did not support the draft District Plan’s proposals to remove two-thirds or more of the pre-1930s protection, preferring the loss of protection to be less extreme or for the status quo level of protection to remain.

There was strong support for character and heritage.  Most people either said character added a lot to Wellington’s identity and should be protected as much as possible (43%) or said they wanted a careful balance between freeing up more room for intensification and protecting character suburbs from destruction (43%).

Support for good design and planning rules was also very strong. 75% of people said they supported greater housing density as long as it is subject to rules that supports good urban design and allows some protection for the amenity of neighbours.  Only 4% said developers should be allowed to do what they want.

Given a choice of where new housing should go, the most popular option among respondents was making use of under-utilised land such as car parks and commercial buildings in the central city and inner city suburbs (47%), with in-fill housing in the outer suburbs the next most popular choice (20%).  Demolishing heritage houses in the inner city suburbs had the least support (8%).

The survey also asked about the respondents’ views on the performance of the mayor and councillors.  A total of 71% had a negative view, with 25% saying they had performed ‘very poorly’ over the last three years, and 46% saying ‘not that well’.

“This survey should serve as a wakeup call for the council, particularly with an election around the corner. This poll shows their views are out of touch with the population’s on the issue of character protection and the care we need to take to design our new housing.”

The survey was conducted by Research New Zealand.  The online opinion survey was completed with a random sample of 406 Wellington residents between 24 May and 5 June 2022.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%.   Quotas were set so that roughly 50% of the sample were home owners and 50% renters.

Read the survey.