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Newsletter March 2018

Frank Kitts Park Appeal  (FKP)

Our appeal against the redevelopment of FKP commences  on Monday, 19 March at 10am Courtroom 5.01, Level 5, District Court Building,  49 Balance Street. The case is expected to last up to four days. If you are attending, a simple security check takes place at the ground floor entrance. The lifts are adjacent.

During late December, our barrister, Philip Milne, unfortunately through personal circumstances had to withdraw from representing us. Being so close to Christmas and New Year was unfortunate and more time was needed to appoint a suitable replacement. Our lawyers applied to the Court and had the case deferred by four weeks. Philip had been assisting us with the FKP appeal process since 2016, and often giving freely of his time. We wish him well.

In 2007/8, Waterfront Watch and Civic Trust appealed successfully against the proposed Hilton Hotel development on Queens Wharf.  Morgan Slyfield, barrister, represented us and Civic Trust. We are pleased to announce that Mr Slyfield is our new barrister and is well underway in preparing for the hearing.

Appointed expert witnesses are: Mark Ashby, planning and policy consultant and Richard Reid, urban design and landscape architect. In addition, Clive Anstey is representing Civic Trust and Steve Dunn is independently presenting further evidence on behalf of Waterfront Watch. We are very grateful for Civic Trust’s and Steve’s support. With Morgan leading our case, and the experts presenting well researched evidence, this should provide ample representation in Court.

We were unsuccessful in the request for assistance from the Environment Legal Aid Fund. This was not unexpected as the former Government substantially reduced the main pool and altered requirements.

Site 9

We made an oral presentation during November to council’s City Strategy Committee (CSC), expressing our concerns regarding the Willis Bond building proposed for Site 9 on North Kumutoto. The enormity of their office building under construction close by on Site 10, doesn’t justify another new building on the waterfront. Unfortunately, CSC gave their approval for the Council to proceed to the Environment Court for consent (known as a direct referral) thus bypassing the normal commissioner hearing process. We are keeping a close eye on this with some Jervois Quay commercial property owners, and will keep you informed if further action is needed.

Special thanks to the many members and supporters who have made donations. The annual calendar sold out in record time. This gives your committee great heart and incentive to continue protecting Wellington’s beautiful Waterfront.

Victor Davie                  
Tel 021 078 7747

The main features of the proposed park redevelopment are:


  • The children’s playground at the northern end of the Park will be enlarged and remodelled:
    • The safety matting will be renewed
    • The lighthouse and slides will be relocated mid-way between the Promenade and Jervois Quay
    • New equipment will be added, including more swings, a wobbly bridge and a flying fox
    • New public toilets including a baby-change table will be incorporated into the refurbished southern end of TSB Arena.


  • The Council plans to create a large flat lawn in place of the amphitheatre with a view to improving views of the harbour and providing a larger space for events
  • The pohutukawa trees will be lifted for replanting
  • The bronze plaques will be saved before the seaward wall is removed
  • The turret holding the Wahine mast will be removed and the mast re-set at the level of the Promenade

Coastal Garden:

  • The existing path running parallel to the Quay will be re-laid slightly closer to the street
    • The area between that path and the street footpath is to be planted as coastal garden
    • The park will be edged by a porous “rain garden” to catch runoff
    • The large pohutukawa trees will be re-planted along the coastal garden, allowing views of the harbour beneath their canopy
    • A series of short concrete walls will be placed among the trees to carry the relocated bronze plaques.

Chinese Garden:

  • A walled Chinese garden is proposed to be built in the area between the lawn and the parking garage
    • The dimensions of the rectangular garden neatly fit over the broad path between the garage building and the base of the Wahine mast, with the entrance set back from the Jervois Quay footpath and the garden running up to the top of the Promenade wall
    • A formal Chinese gate structure will open into a walled courtyard from the footpath level
    • Steps will lead to the upper area of the garden which will be level with the existing garage roof
    • The entrance to the Chinese garden will be locked at night, as will a gate at the top of the garden linking to the upper level of the park
    • The garden proposal has received the support of Wellington’s Chinese sister cities and the Wellington Chinese Association.

Upper Lawn:

  • The upper area of the park above the garage will be revitalized
    • It will be edged by an open viewing gallery and include a “reflective” pool and square lawn
    • There will be two sets of steps down to the promenade from the upper lawn
    • A new wide flight of steps will be installed from the lawn to the lagoon near the Quay, creating an easy route to the City to Sea bridge, and past the fountain to the promenade
    • The ramp to the upper level, close to the footpath, will remain with its line of Ngaio trees
    • The turret on the corner of the garage structure closest to the lagoon bridge will be removed.         



                     View from Jervois Quay footpath


                                                                 Playground Layout


Chinese garden footprint                                 

                                  Mid-winter shadows



Frank Kitts Park Redevelopment

The Commissioners appointed by the Council have approved the resource consent to allow the redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park. You can read their decision here.

Waterfront Watch is disappointed in the decision.  With the support of numerous messages from our members and over 90% of respondents to our public on-line survey, Waterfront Watch has appealed to the Environment Court against the Council's planning approval.  We believe that the great majority of the Wellington public supports the work that we do to keep the waterfront as open space.  In respect of Frank Kitts Park there is 90% opposition to the proposed siting of a Chinese Garden and the removal of the amphitheater.  

We ran a survey to check that people still want us to keep Frank Kitts Park as it is and the answer has been clear.  The survey remains open for you to record your view and to leave a message that will be passed to the Council.

The Frank Kitts Park survey findings (182 responses):   

1. Should Waterfront Watch appeal the approval granted for the Frank Kitts Park redevelopment?   Yes:  88%

2. Do you support locating the Chinese Garden in Frank Kitts Park?    No:  94%

3. Do you support the removal of the amphitheatre?                             No: 89%

4. Do you support proceeding with the upgrade of the children's playground?   Yes:  85%  

 Comments left on survey:

  • A Chinese garden is NOT in tune with the waterfront. Wellington has lost enough of its waterfront without having yet another area closed off.
  • I think the proposal looks really clean and tidy, great areas for clear activities. Well done WCC I think this will be a great asset to our little capitol to show case our waterfront, our diversity and our great social culture we have here in Wellington.
  • Please don't meddle with Frank Kitts Park. It is a proven successful asset for our City. You, the Council, should not kow-tow to Chinese demands & if you have to have their garden, put it somewhere OUR people want, not the Chinese
  • We don't know enough about costs and likelihood of winning an appeal. We also don't feel competent to judge the need for an upgrade. Thanks for all your good work.
  • It's not broken . No need to fix.
  • Save the money for other amenities - libraries, gardens, recycling etc
  • Why can't the Chinese Garden be put on Ilott Green?
  • Using a diplomatic excuse to agree and issue the consent is no excuse. The mayor promised something she had no authority to make. This is very disappointing. Kind regards
  • Frank Kitts Park is fine as it is and well used - there are alternative sites available for the Chinese Garden.
  • A limited playground is fine for the children. It doesn't need to be hyped up much more. Also there can be numerous activities using the area which children can then be part of. It is a space for all of us, large and small etc etc. I believe there is a large ground swell of discontent but that people are just oo busy to react. If you talk about it many have a strong opinion against the whole upgrade/Chinese thing.
  • As a submitter, with Barbara Mitcalfe, opposing the proposed changes to Frank Kitts Park, I am dismayed that the proposal was granted consent. The park works really well as it is. To spend c. $10 million to 'fix' the park when it is so popular, would be unconscionable. Chris Horne
  • Do your best to stop the Council, AGAIN.
  • Wellington needs a sensible, sheltered, reasonably attractive amenity on the waterfront for the public to use. A Chinese garden there is not it - it would be much better situated elsewhere. I'm not keen on the current amphitheatre's brutalist concrete ramparts, but at least the amphitheatre provides shelter and a place for public performances, meetings etc.
  • I think that the current layout of Frank Kitts Park works really well and have attended a number of open air performances and been part of groups that have used the area when there has been events. I also do not understand why the Chinese President and Mayor of Xiaming have been promised that the garden will go ahead when there is no need for this area to be changed. That is not a wise process and losing face is not a good reason to let this go ahead. Perhaps a more fitting place would be 'Oriental Bay'
  • Despite what the RMA allows for me a report from Parks and Gardens on the benefits and the disadvantages of having a Chinese Garden on the Waterfront has yet to be produced for the public and councillors alike to make a well informed decision. I don't support this decision based on the fact it is a lock-up facility on public open space.
  • I think the new plans are great!
  • Frank Kitts park is a great asset as it is, why change it? A Chinese garden and modernising the park could destroy what people love about the park. The popularity and use of the park has increased immensely over the last few years. Why risk ruining this. Do some maintenance on the park , sure. But please leave our great park as it is. Especially as there is very little public support for development here. Proceeding would be highly undemocratic.
  • I support the development of a Chinese Garden in Wellington, but not in Frank Kitts Park.
  • As long as they leave the play area where it is, not flattened and closer to the street and delivery bays of the TSB and Shed 6.

Statement issued by Waterfront Watch in response to the decision:

Waterfront Watch is surprised and disappointed with this decision and will need to seek advice before deciding on our next steps.   While the redevelopment has received approval under the RMA we are calling on the newly elected Council not to proceed with the proposal against the wishes of an astounding number of city residents who opposed the development.

The Council has consistently used the resource consent process to make decisions on waterfront plans that are really choices that should be made by elected Councillors who can hear what the public is saying about the waterfront and how ratepayers’ money should be spent. Waterfront Watch is calling on Councillors to proceed with the revitalisation of the children's playground, but to cancel the balance of the redevelopment and find a better location for the Chinese garden. Like everyone else, we would love to see a Chinese Garden in Wellington, just not on the waterfront.

The hearing commissioners’ decision to approve the redevelopment was made within the constraints of the RMA. But even so, many of their comments are hard to understand. (See the full decision report.)  For example:

  • "We agree with submitters that the proposed design creates a more formal park but conclude that the loss of unstructured open space is balanced by the increased functionality of the lawn and playground areas." The existing amphitheatre is very structured, providing a variety of spaces, whereas the proposed flat lawn is designed specifically for large marquees and the “rain garden” areas will be unusable. When asked by the hearing Commissioners the Council was unable to name one proposed event that they had not been able to accommodate on the waterfront as it is.
  • “Results of an on-line survey were presented to us. Those who responded to the survey showed opposition to the proposal.” This is the full extent of the weight the commissioners gave a petition opposing the redevelopment that received over 2500 signatures and a survey with 175 responses showing 85% opposition to the Council’s scheme. The hearing was given over 400 comments left on the websites, expressing overwhelming opposition. The only support for the Council’s proposal at the hearing came from the Chinese Garden Society.
  • “We wish to ensure that detailed design explores the location of the memorial plaques to confirm that they are appropriately located, readily visible and accessible in all weathers.” The proposal would move the plaques from the promenade wall to the interior of the new park where they will not be seen by people heading along the promenade towards Te Papa. The finding simply asks the designers to re-confirm they consider the location is “appropriate”.
  • “We accept that the walled garden not only replaces the shelter of the amphitheatre but introduces a range of sheltered and small scale spaces that will provide additional amenity for the park users.” The Chinese garden provides only 12 sheltered seats for office workers to enjoy lunch, far fewer than enjoy the amphitheatre.
  • “We are satisfied that interested parties have had the opportunity to express their views prior to the application being submitted including at the time of consideration of the design brief”. The public wants more than an opportunity to “express their views”. We want to be heard
  • “In respect of the amphitheatre, we agree with submitters that it provides the park with a particular quality of space and function. However many of the attributes of the amphitheatre are already replicated along the waterfront”. There is no other space like the amphitheatre for intimate performances either on the waterfront or elsewhere in Wellington.
  • “The proposal is broadly but not entirely consistent with the Wellington Waterfront Framework document but this is not fatal to the application.” The Framework says that changes are needed to improve access from Frank Kitts Park down to the water and across to the CBD, neither of which are addressed by the redevelopment. It does not propose reshaping the park despite some believing that the park has its back to the harbour. It also promised a variety of different spaces on the waterfront, not just flat lawns.

In summary, the commissioners made a judgment under the RMA between the negative effects identified by submitters and the proposal put forward by the Council. They decided that "the proposal represents the sustainable management purpose of the Act" and therefore approved the application.


   Letter to the Editor:

  • Having followed the debate on the siting of a Chinese garden on the Wellington waterfront, I would offer the experience of another city. Hastings was the first New Zealand city to form a sister-city relationship in China. As a result, its sister-city Guilin gifted many of the components for the very attractive Osmanthus Garden, sited in Cornwall Park, Hastings. Some year later, Hastings offered to reciprocate and build a New Zealand garden with a Maori influence. Guilin offered a prime site with a lake frontage. Planning was well underway when Guilin decided that their prime waterfront site should showcase things Chinese and the offer of the site was withdrawn. I think it is a great pity that Wellington decision-makers don’t have the same pride in retaining the Wellington waterfront in a way that reflects Wellington and New Zealand. Guilin’s decision has not affected the good sister city relationship with Hastings.  Margaret Twigg



View Survey Results & Comments to 30 October (182 responses)

Read the Waterfront Watch Objection to the application  

and  Submission to the Hearing and Supplementary Oral Submission

Individual Councillors' Views on Frank Kitts Park

Public Survey Feedback

183 responses to the Survey have been received so far.  They show:

  • 86% opposition to locating the Chinese Garden in Frank Kitts Park
  • 85% opposition to removal of the amphitheatre
  • 78% support for redevelopment of the children's playground

41% of survey respondents have identified themselves as "not members or supporters of Waterfront Watch".

Typical comments include:

  • Completely disagree with use of Frank Kitts Park for a Chinese Garden based in the following :

    • The existing layout has been hugely successfully used and enjoyed by different communities in the Wellington area. As well as those already mentioned here for me Carols in the Park is always magic! Frank Kitts park is much more than a space or park, it provides 'heart' or 'the family room' for our city where citizens as well as visitors of very diverse backgrounds, ages etc come together.

    • There are existing commemorative plaques honouring communities and individuals who have made a contribution to Wellington in different ways.  It is dishonourable to remove and replace them, especially when alternative options for the yet to be built Chinese garden can be found. 

    • It is a complete waste of OUR rate payers money. This has already happened too often... where ad hoc decisions have been made without adequate consultation. So yes, really great to have a Chinese garden, all for that, but in another location. There needs to be thought and consultation, along with respect and understanding of the importance and role of Frank Kitts Park. 

  • I'm of Chinese heritage, but don't think there should be a Chinese garden on the waterfront. It should kept somewhere more relevant like the Botanic Gardens or Chinese Embassy. This is Wellington, if anything, the harbour front should be used to to make it more Wellingtonian, not more "international". No other country has a garden on the harbour side or even a special garden in our CBD. 

  • Because Frank Kitts Park is centrally placed and near the waterfront it already has substantial use. A new Chinese Garden is an opportunity to upgrade and add interest to another area that is not as well used as Frank Kitts Park.

  • Totally inappropriate location. Strongly support a Chinese Garden in Wellington but there are other options for its location eg the Botanic Garden and the new location for the Chinese Embassy. 
  • Completely inappropriate 
  • Quite out of place there
  • Not on waterfront - new Chinese Embassy or Jack Ilott's Green sound ok.
  • The amphitheatre provides such better wind shelter and makes the place more usable and sheltered from the (frequent) Wellington winds. Only having trees protecting the proposed lawn area from northerlies isn't sufficient. At the moment, I can sit with my family and friends in one of the curved parts on the outside of the amphitheatre and still be sheltered from the wind while looking at the harbour directly. You won't get that with a flat lawn - it's Wellington!
  • The amphitheatre serves two purposes - as a site for adhoc performances and as a sheltered possie to lunch and to rest at.
  • The amphitheater provides shelter and seating. As a flat lawn it won't be as usable as a lunch time seating area after a rainy morning.

Background to the Redevelopment Proposal

The Wellington City Council proposes to re-model Frank Kitts Park at a cost of $5million. The Council’s view is that the park is “tired” and would be improved if it was reoriented to open views to the harbour. The Council plans to include a Chinese garden within the park.

The Council has applied for resource consent for the project.  The Application includes a full description and drawings of the proposed new park on the Council’s website.   

A report in the Dominion Post on 9 July 2016 was headlined "Stoush brewing over Wellington's plans for a Chinese garden on the waterfront".  And Dave Armstrong's column on 18 July was headed "Is plonking a Chinese garden in an already popular park a good move?"

In 2006 the Council consulted on the design brief for remodelling Frank Kitts Park.  Key aspects of the proposed design brief included: ô€‚ƒ creating a Chinese Garden ô€‚ƒ improving connections between the waterfront and the city ô€‚ƒ improving the connection between the park and the water itself ô€‚ƒ improving the connection between the park and the southern end of the TSB Bank Arena.  The 2006 report considered by Councillors reported that 60% of submissions supported the proposed design brief while 25% were opposed, "particularly to the the inclusion of a Chinese garden".  Among the 69 submissions received there was strong support from members of the Chinese Association.

The current proposal is based on the winning entry to the 2007 competition.  Read the report of the Competition Jury and the subsequent report to the Council.

The 2008 global financial downturn caused the project to be deferred for several years.  In 2015 the Council resurrected the proposal and included the redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park in the draft Waterfront Development Plan which was open for submissions.  The report prepared for Council consideration summarising the 240 submissions received included ....

  • "General support for the proposed redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park exceeded opposition by 3:1"
  • "General support for the Chinese Garden in Fran Kitts Park only marginally exceeded opposition although it should be noted that many respondents in opposition only oppose its location, with some opponents recommending alternative locations such as the Botanic Gardens or Waitangi Park."

The more recent survey made available on-line since June 2016 by Waterfront Watch, so far attracting over 180 responses, has shown 86% opposition to locating the Chinese Garden in Frank Kitts Park, and 85% opposition to the removal of the amphitheatre.

Waterfront Watch made submissions on the 2006 design brief, the 2015 Waterfront Development Plan and the Council's 2016 Annual Plan that included provision for the $5m cost of the redevelopment work.  In each submission, Waterfront Watch made clear its opposition to siting a Chinese garden on Frank Kitts Park and the proposed removal of the amphitheatre.

The Council confirmed the plan without change in 2015 and authorised staff to lodge the application for resource consent.  Budgetary provision for the work has been confirmed in the Council's 2016 Annual Plan. A report in the Dominion Post in June 2016 said that the Wellington Chinese Society was pleased with the Council's proposal.


Survey of Candidates for Wellington City Council & Mayor

Waterfront Watch has surveyed candidates for Wellington’s Mayor and for Council in the various wards.

We asked: “Do you support the council’s planned $5.5m redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park that would remove the amphitheatre and introduce a Chinese Garden? Yes/No.” They were invited to add a comment.

 Overall, across the total of 37 candidates for mayor and council:

• 4 said they supported the Council’s plan (of which only one is a sitting councillor): Coughlan, Johnson (Mayor); Gee (Lambton); Gilbert (Northern).
• 22 candidates said that they do not support the council’s plan: Leggett, Overton, Ritchie, Young (Mayor); Hollard, Jansen, Mihaka, Pannett, Scannell,  Young (Lambton); Apanowicz, Gray (Northern); Free, Goulden, Murray (Eastern); Brendon Bonner (Southern).

 In addition to these responses to the Yes/No question:

• 3 said “Don’t know”: Day (Northern); Morgan (Onslow); McGregor (Eastern)
• 4 sitting councillors chose not to answer the question, instead providing comments: Foster, Lester, Sparrow, Woolf
• 3 sitting councillors did not respond to the survey, despite reminders: Marsh, Eagle, Lee

 You can read what the elected Councillors said before the election and download our Press Statement.


2003 Waitangi Park plan 


Cllr Simon Woolf - Facebook postings

Councillor Simon Woolf posted on his Facebook page in July 2016 asking the question "Do we really need to spend so much on a redevelopment, and is it going to give us added value?".  It has led to an interesting conversion.  Separate from questioning the proposed expenditure he says "I also have a view that the placement of a Chinese Garden on the Waterfront is in the wrong place. It would be better situated in an inner green space, like the Botanical Gardens."

Cllr Woolf had earlier posted about the proposal during the Council's consultation stage in 2015.  That too elicited considerable discussion.

DomPost finds supporters

A report in the Dominion Post on 9 July 2016 headlined "Stoush brewing over Wellington's plans for a Chinese garden on the waterfront" reported on the objection to the Resource Consent lodged by Waterfront Watch and attracted comments from supporters of the redevelopment plan.  

The DomPost reported Councillor Nicola Young as labelling the project a "complete waste of money". She believed a lot of Wellingtonians were happy with Frank Kitts Park the way it was.  "It seems an odd place to put a Chinese garden ... why are we even doing this project? I can't see any good reason."  Andy Foster, the council's transport and urban development chairman, said the council believed the project would improve the waterfront for the public, although it was reasonable for Waterfront Watch to raise concerns about access.  He said that the council had already consulted the public through the Long-Term Plan in 2015, and had committed to build the park. Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has signed an agreement with the mayor of Xiamen, in front of President Xi.  "So it would be a terrible look for the city if we pulled out now," Foster said.

Esther Fung,​ of the Wellington Chinese Garden Society, said the organisation had been working with the city council on the project for years, and it had been designed to improve the park for all Wellingtonians and visitors.

The feedback included these comments:

• I've always thought that Frank Kitts Park was designed back to front - it should be facing out to the sea, not Jervois Quay.
• This is why nothing gets done in Wellington, too many people fighting over what generally will improve the area. I'm all for moving this city forwards and improving public art, amenities, infrastructure etc. Keep on moaning and we will stay in 1981.
• Nicola you just lost my vote. The current park is a blight on the waterfront. I thought the waterfront watch wanted more green space on the waterfront. Tell me where you can sit on a lawn around there and look at the sea? Currently you get to sit and look at some of the Chase Corporations finest work. I don't think I've ever seen anyone sitting and watching something in that amphitheatre. The playground is pathetic too and needs a major upgrade. 
• Love the idea but think the wall should stay.
• These 'public' consultations are a joke when something like this is a surprise to everyone. Funny how you only hear from your local council rep when it's election time. 
• The proposed new garden looks great. And the council/ ratepayers aren't paying for it. The council is paying for other elements. Getting rid of that monolithic wall would be a great start.
• I'm not opposed to a redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park, nor to a Chinese Garden (which can be stunning), but has anyone thought about asking the WCC Gardens team whether a Chinese Garden could survive on the waterfront? Given our hardy coastal natives are thick leaved, salt tolerant species, how would a delicate magnolia, Azalea, or Chrysanthemum handle the wind and salt? 
• I have seen the damage that Waterfront Watch can create just because they are a pack of nimbys. Knowing how under utilised Frank Kitts Park is, I feel a revamp is well deserved apart from the financial cost. What are Waterfront Watch complaining about? Have they ever been there and noticed how the best part of the waterfront is cut off from view by the big ugly concrete wall? or how few people actually use Frank Kitts apart from the occasional concert there? Get your heads out of the sand Waterfront Watch and let the city progress rather than stop everything.


Waterfront Watch endorses "Eiffel Tower" for Wellington

Wellington based architect Christopher Kelly has proposed a spectacular bungy-jump tower leaning over the harbour from the promenade near Te Papa.  The Dominion Post sought comments from the city council and Waterfront Watch when it featured the suggestion on 2 September 2016.

Waterfront Watch endorsed the idea, saying “We have always pushed for facilities on the waterfront that are well designed and provide a focus for the public. The jumping platform has been a great success and this idea would be taking it to another level."

President Patrick McCombs said that while he recognised that they’d need to charge for the bungy jumping, "a $5 million contribution from the Council, instead of spending it destroying Frank Kitts Park, could provide free public viewing from the lower levels”. 


 2016 AGM Presidents report

The Presidents Report to the 2016 AGM included the following summary of the achievements of Waterfront Watch over the past 20 years:

Despite the obstacles that have been put in our way, and the effort and the costs involved reaching half a million dollars, the result has been that PEOPLE POWER has been responsible for virtually all of the features of the Wellington Waterfront that people appreciate so very much. And when I say people, I mean everyone from the strollers and the cyclists, family groups and visitors, international tourists, dinners and drinkers, businessmen, real estate agents and building owners, and the increasing numbers of inner city apartment residents. In fact, the Council’s own surveys show that over 92% of Wellington residents like what has been achieved on our waterfront.

The features that are here on the Wellington Waterfront because of People Power, and DESPITE the Council - not because of it, include:

• Waitangi Park – as public space rather than townhouses, and with 5 fewer buildings than were included in the winning park design
• Open views across the Royal Port Nicholson boat harbour
• The promenade past Te Papa
• The Circa Theatre building not replaced by an office tower block
• The brewery and Odlin’s buildings retained
• The Free Ambulance building on its historic site
• The lagoon
• Rowing club buildings saved and relocated [– Mayor Michael Fowler wanted them demolished and described them as being made of boxwood]
• No buildings along the Frank Kitts Park street frontage
• No Hilton hotel on Queens Wharf
• Restricted traffic access to Queens Wharf via promenade past Shed 6
• Queens Wharf plaza retained at its original size [ie still open beneath the shop verandahs]
• Kumutoto Plaza will be expanded to include the previous building site 8, and
• The building now underway on Site 10 will be two storeys lower then one that the Council approved 2 years ago, and with a cut-away in the ground floor giving views of the old Eastbourne Ferry terminal

And before all that, we cannot forget the previous generation who, in the 1960s, had the vision and energy, to oppose the 6-lane motorway that would have taken all of the historic buildings along Jervois Quay – and instead has given us Frank Kitts Park:- Although, at the same time, we must tip our hats to the sacrifices made by Tinakori Road and the Bolton Street cemetery to accommodate the motorway moved off the waterfront.

It would be very hard to identify even the smallest thing on the waterfront in which the Council has been influenced by anyone outside those with commercial interests, or the regular group of consultant designers on the council payroll. But perhaps I should acknowledge that the Council did listen to the star gazers who wanted shades on the lights in Waitangi Park - and they do talk regularly with the Council’s Accessibility Advisory Group, even if there are still grumbles about slippery wood and uneven steps.

Download the full report.

"The Waterfront wasn't achieved by accident":  

Wellington's favourite film maker endorses the waterfront


Gaylene Preston, Wellington's favourite local film maker, acknowledged Waterfront Watch
in the DomPost "Life" supplement (14 October 2015)

Favourite public space?  "The waterfront. We fought for it. The Waterfront Watch group stopped the Odlins building turning into a casino, and when Te Papa was first proposed, they were going to build it right down to the water. Imagine not being able to walk right around there. That waterfront wasn’t achieved by accident.”

 Images from the Lambton Harbour plan before Variation 17 was defeated

 Proposed Site 10 opp NZ Post         

Council given public's view of Waterfront in 2004 survey

In 2004 the Council's waterfront development company commissioned a professional survey of public attitudes to Waterfront development covering 751 Wellington residents. The report gave the Council a clear message that residents wanted public, open space and fewer buildings:

"Perceptions of the on-going waterfront development:

"All respondents with an awareness of one or more specific developments were asked what they thought of these developments to date:
Of those who provided comments (n=592) the majority, 63% were more likely to comment positively on the waterfront development to date:

o Chaffers Park looks impressive, as is the Odlin Building development. They all seem to be good. I don't want overpowering buildings.
o I am in favour of retaining open space features. I am in favour of the proposed development of the Chaffers Park. It keeps the old building, and has plenty of open space in the area.
o I really like that there's open space and easy access to the sea. It's a pedestrian friendly area as we can go there and enjoy it without having to spend money. . .
o I approve of the fact that the Council puts so much money into beautifying and promoting the whole 'Absolutely Positively Wellington' thing and the waterfront specifically. . .
o I think it's fantastic for the city. I've been to a couple of seminars with professors from overseas and I think that for the city it's going to be fantastic. From a heritage side we're retaining the old buildings and in general, I think it's going to get people out and about. Chaffers Park is a bit of a mess and any change is going to be absolutely fantastic."

"It should be noted, however, that many providing comments (22%) voiced concerns about a specific development, or the waterfront development in general:

o Restricting access and reducing public space
o Waterfront becoming overly commercialised
o By and large I'm a little bit ambivalent about them. I'm not too sure whether they are going to be good or not. I don't like the idea of a hotel at Queens Wharf, I oppose that one actually. I like the idea of Chaffers Park and I'd like to the see the waterfront left open. I wouldn't like to see it covered with buildings.
o I am against extra buildings because I like open spaces and I think that there's too many buildings already. I don't want any more buildings on the plan. If I had a choice, the old Post Building would be gone too.
o Disgusting - I think the space should be left open and to the public and not turned into some money-grubbing thing for developers.
o I think that we are eventually going to lose the waterfront. The people that live in the apartments are going to see it but the city is going to lose it.
o I think the developments shouldn't develop in a way that excludes people from the development - it shouldn't be sold off as private hotels."

These comments are taken from the PowerPoint report to the Council in June 2004.  The first group which contain some positive observations were treated as favourable feedback on the waterfront developments that had taken place up to the time when Waitangi Park was being developed. The Council's professional survey had captured a public view that clearly favoured retaining open space and opposed more buildings. The second group expressed their feelings more clearly.  After receiving these findings the Council made no changes to its waterfront development plan which, at that stage, included 10 new or enlarged buildings including the Hilton hotel planned for Queens Wharf.

Just two months before the Council received these survey results Fran Wilde, Executive Chair of the Council's development company Wellington Waterfront Ltd (and previously Mayor), issued a press statement in response to a pamphlet issued by Waterfront Watch protesting the Council's plans for Too Many Buildings on the waterfront.  The statement described Waterfront Watch supporters as “spoilers, attempting to stall progress on development of the waterfront" and promoted the Council vision of the waterfront with "beautiful and inspiring spaces and architecture". Waterfront Watch has always remained confident that it speaks for the clear majority of Wellington residents whose views were made plain in the Council's own survey more then 20 years ago.

 You can see the historic development plans here.

Response to Listener waterfront article

The Listener magazine carried an article in its 16 January 2016 edition about waterfront developments around New Zealand.  The article praises the work of designers and landscape architects while omitting any reference to citizen inputs which time and again have been responsible for the waterfront features so widely enjoyed by preventing inappropriate developments that would have reduced public open space, access and views. A letter written in response by Lindsay Shelton, founding President of Waterfront Watch, was printed in the following edition of the Listener:

The mini-history of the ­Wellington waterfront (“Lead us to water”, January 16) gets the story wrong by omitting too much. It didn’t all begin with Te Papa. It began in 1995 with the completion of the events and retail centre on Queens Wharf. These enormous out-of-scale buildings alerted the city to the fact that the council wanted big new buildings – 22 of them – on public land all along the waterfront. (The Waitangi Park area was to be covered in town houses and car parks.)
The “key to understanding how Wellington achieved so much” was five years of campaigning by local people who wanted more open space and fewer, smaller buildings on the edge of their harbour. It culminated in February 2000 when a couple of thousand people protested at the Town Hall, forcing the council to give up its appalling master plan. But the fight to defend open space on the waterfront has had to continue.

Lindsay Shelton
Former president, Waterfront Watch
(Brooklyn, Wellington)

Plan your trip to Wellington's Waterfront:

Wellington’s waterfront is a special place that welcomes people to play in the beautiful and inspiring spaces that connect our city to the sea and protect our heritage for future generations. This unofficial website is intended to serve as a guide to help you navigate your way around our beautiful waterfront. Whether you are a visitor to our beautiful city or a Wellingtonian, this site can help you navigate your way around one of Wellington's greatest prides. 

Waterfront Watch disappointed at Environment Court approval of Kumutoto office building

Press Statement: 12 October 2015

The Environment Court has granted approval for a five storey office building on the waterfront, opposite the head office of New Zealand Post.  The full decision can be downloaded here.

Patrick McCombs, President of Waterfront Watch, said that the organisation was disappointed at the decision.

Waterfront Watch has campaigned for the waterfront land to be used only for public enjoyment and recreation, with buildings allowed only to support those uses.

Waterfront Watch will study the Court’s decision and seek advice before consulting its members on its next steps.


The building approved by the Court, although too large, is considerably smaller than the 11-storey office building proposed for the same site, adjacent to the brick 3-storey Shed 21, before the defeat of Variation 17 or the 30m building supported by the council in 2011. Read council's rethink of 2011 proposal.


Letter to the Dominion Post editor 

13 October 2015

Dear Editor

When celebrating the Environment Court’s approval of his proposed 5-storey office building on “the last prime waterfront development site in the city”, you reported developer Mark McGuinness of Willis Bond Ltd saying “No project on the waterfront is easy to get away – simply because of the nature of waterfront politics”. (DomPost 13 October) The future of Wellington’s waterfront is not a game; it is a contest of visions between those who see opportunities for their private businesses and others who see the waterfront as the recreation ground for inner city residents, workers and visitors.

Waterfront Watch has been proud to represent those who prefer the waterfront to remain open public space. The only buildings needed are those selling food, drink, icecream and souvenirs, or renting kayaks, skates and bikes. This vision for the waterfront is supported by over 90% of Wellington residents as consistently shown in the council’s own surveys.

The approved building is smaller than the proposal for the site put forward two years ago that everyone now seems to agree would have been totally inappropriate. If Waterfront Watch and others had not taken the Council’s plan to the Environment Court that building would be there now. And the landscaped public space that you say “will mean people can enjoy harbour views” would still be designated as “building Site 8”. Those are just the latest additions to the list of waterfront gems that owe their existence to people power resisting the Council’s development plans, including Waitangi Park, the Ambulance, Odlins and Brewery buildings, the lagoon, no buildings on Frank Kitts Park, the full size plaza under the sails, and no Hilton hotel inappropriately dominating Queens Wharf.

Let’s hope that, if this building goes ahead, it is the last private office or apartment building on the waterfront.

Patrick McCombs President, Waterfront Watch


Debate: "Developing Wellington's waterfront is too hard"

   NZ Institute of Building 2015 Moot Debate:  24 September

The topic for this year's annual Building Institute debate was very topical, following soon after the Environment Court hearing on the large office building proposed for Site 10, currently occupied by the campervan park. At the Court hearing, Waterfront Watch put forward the view that purely commercial buildings have no place on the waterfront, and that the development of Wellington’s gem should be focussed on recreational uses with a mixture of open space and appropriately sized buildings that meet the needs of people enjoying what’s special about the area. The Court’s decision is expected before the end of the year.

The debate was arranged without the involvement of Waterfront Watch. Speakers for the affirmative in the debate were Ian Pike (Manager of the council's "City Shaper" group), Gerald Blunt (WCC) and Guy Marriage from VUW School of Architecture. Councillors Paul Eagle and Nicola Young were on the team presenting the alternative view.

Several Waterfront Watch members attended the debate which was a good opportunity to better understand how different people think the waterfront should be developed. Hopefully the dialogue will lead to a better planning process for agreeing how the development of the waterfront should be completed. 

The real meaning of the District Plan's 35% limit on waterfront building coverage

4 September 2015

The Environment Court hearing in August 2015 about a five-storey office building on the campervan park opposite the Post Office building highlighted the potential for more buildings on the waterfront.

The District Plan sets a limit of 35 per cent for the area of buildings allowed across the waterfront. The city council included the limit in a plan change in 2001. Councillors took comfort in the thought that 65 per cent of the waterfront would remain public space, open to the sky.

But in an unusual quirk, the site coverage rule relates to the whole area of the planning zone rather than to individual land titles. Also unusually, the waterfront area as defined in the District Plan includes road area of the adjacent Waterloo and Jervois Quays and Cable Street.

In the outer city and suburbs, the District Plan sets site coverage limits as a percentage of land title area, excluding streets and reserves. In the outer residential areas, the maximum site coverage on a section without a resource consent is 35%.  In Mt Victoria the planning limit is 50% and the actual built coverage is about 40%. On the same basis, excluding roads, the building coverage limit on the waterfront allowed in the plan is 45%.

The Environment Court heard that the proposed new building would bring the site coverage to 23%, well short of the allowed 35%. The planner representing the applicants – the building developer who applied with the support of the council – emphasised that the district plan meant that the proposed building was entitled to be considered on its merits. Waterfront Watch asked the court to consider the impacts of the building and not to simply assume that it is acceptable, just because it was within the limit laid down in the plan.

Within the 35% building coverage limit, there is in fact room to accommodate the footprint of two more Te Papas or over 16 more of the office building proposed for Kumutoto. Though 65% of the area would still be open, including the area of the Quays, if the building footprint is stamped 16 times across a plan of the waterfront it is plain that it is time to shout “stop building on the waterfront”.

Download a PDF plan showing the absurdity of the District Plan's building limit that would allow 16 more footprints the size of the building proposed for Site 10 on Kumutoto.

A line has to be drawn well before the 35% limit is reached. Waterfront Watch believes that each proposed building must be critically examined and should be approved only if it serves the needs of people enjoying the recreational values of the waterfront.

There was a similar message in evidence to the Environment Court by Graham McIndoe, a designer who as chair of the council’s independent Technical Advisory Group has contributed much to the high design standards of waterfront developments. He said “the issue of ‘should there be another building’ comes down to what is the benefit of that building to the waterfront, what is its impact on the waterfront, [and] how does it contribute to a high quality public environment on the waterfront”.

The decision of the Environment Court on the application for the new office building at Kumutoto is expected before the end of the year.

This article was published on where it stimulated an informed debate.

 Update:  The decision of the Environment Court was published in 9 October 2015.  In granting the application for the building on Site 10 the Court considered that "the proposal is in an urban setting" and noted that "the District Plan provides for a building coverage on the Waterfront overall of 35%" [para32].



Kumutoto Site 10 Environment Court Hearing:
August 2015

28 August 2015

The Resource Consent application for a proposed 5 storey building at the Northern end of the waterfront was heard in the Environment Court over three days in August 2015.

The application had been referred direct to the court without the usual council hearing.  The applications had been lodged by Willis Bond Ltd as developer of the building and the Wellington City Council which would develop the surrounding public space.  Waterfront Watch joined the case under the Resource Management Act representing the public interest along with 5 individuals who appeared at the hearing as separate parties.

The Court's decision was released on 9 October 2015.

Copies of the applicants' evidence are available on the Wellington City Council's website.

You can download the evidence filed prior to the hearing on behalf of Waterfront Watch by our President Patrick McCombs and by Barbara Fill, our expert witness on historical issues.


            Proposed Willis Bond office building on Kumutoto Site 10


WCC’s Wellington Waterfront Development Plan for 2015- 2018.

WCC’s Wellington Waterfront Development Plan for 2015- 2018 can be seen at


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