Building communities not just houses in Wellington- a 21st century approach

Wellington City and harbour

Finally the conversation here in Wellington seem to be changing from just a numbers game in building ‘widgets’ to building communities were people want to live.

We all know our current urban planning rules are not working well for residents or developers. Intensification, for more housing choice, needs to continue however it must be done right for the future.  This means putting people first and joined up thinking for other aspects such as infrastructure, public amenities, public transport and enhancing the community vibe. Until now, people and how they want to live and what they may afford have not been at the heart of discussions.

We are not in a crisis situation like Auckland so let’s maximise our opportunities and better design and plan together for the future. Drawing an arbitrary line within suburbs and adding more rules to our cumbersome District Plan is not going to enhance our city in the long term. It’s just putting a Band-Aid on the District Plan and is 20th century thinking for a 21st century challenge.

Unfortunately these (medium density) rules are the main tool for intensification in our current Urban Growth Plan. This is not really a plan but a vision with no clear path, no key milestones, no monitoring mechanism to check progress and no visible actionable approach to get there. Essentially ‘How’ we get there is weak in detail yet this should be just as important as the ‘What’.

Wellington’s place in the region is also not accurately reflected as not everyone who works and plays in Wellington chooses to live in Wellington City. With the new Kapiti Expressway and Transmission Gully motorway, people will have more choice. An effective regional public transport system becomes even more important to help people move easily between areas. We need to “think regionally and act locally”.

There is a glimmer of hope for a different approach.  Council Officers are starting to recognise that genuine community engagement is a necessity.  Some of the Mayoral candidates are clearly stating practical steps on how they will involve the community more. In a recent Dominion Post article (2 August), the new Chief City Planner says “We’re not out to generate profit margins for developers. We’re building communities”. From a community perspective, that’s what we have been asking for along with the opportunity to participate in designing the future (not just be consulted to with pre-conceived plans).  Hopefully the new incoming Council will also be able to take a 21st century approach to this century’s housing challenge.  If elected to Wellington City Council, I intend to do so.

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