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Frank Kitts Park:  May 2016

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 Councils wants to include a Chinese garden within the park.

The Council’s resource consent application for the project will soon be advertised and open for submissions for a month. A full description and drawings of the proposed new park will be available on the Council’s website.

Waterfront Watch will be preparing a submission on the consent application and needs to hear your opinion.  Please take the survey at the bottom of the article.

The proposed main features of the redesigned park 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 Promenad

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.

 Take our Survey Here



                     View from Jervois Quay footpath


                                                                 Playground Layout


Chinese garden footprint                                 

                                  Mid-winter shadows




"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         

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. 

Best Wishes for 2016

2016 marks the 21st anniversary of Waterfront Watch. If the sales of our 2016 Calendar are any guide, we will continue to have strong public support through the year for our vision for the Wellington Waterfront to be retained as public open space, free to be enjoyed by local residents and workers, and by visitors from around New Zealand and overseas. 

On a beautiful Wellington day in the weekend before Christmas Pauline Swann and Victor Davie, members of the WW Committee, took the last of our calendars to the Waterfront and talked to passersby.  A cruise ship was in port at the time.  Here's what Pauline emailed at the end of the day:


Hi everyone,

Victor and I had an interesting few hours or so on the waterfront and sold some more calendars- I will be banking the proceeds tomorrow.  We now have 30 left of the original 400 printed.

Of great interest were the talks we had with many waterfront strollers, including cruise ship passengers, who got Victor to take a photo with me and the wonderful enlargement of the Calendar that we had on show. Everyone who stopped for a chat said they loved the waterfront, and several did buy a calendar. One lady really enjoyed the amphitheatre, especially all the bronze plaques on the walls.  When we talked about the Council's plan to remodel the park, many said that if it was made into a flat lawn it would not provide an alternative if the wind was blowing off the harbour.   One lovely lady who also bought a calendar comes in nearly every weekend from Raumati on the train and just loves the walk from the railway station and back.....

Also spoke to a few parents of children on the Lighthouse slide and they couldn't believe it was going to be changed and moved closer to the road and nearer to the rear of the Event centre......they hoped there would be consultation!!!!!!    so we have to spread the word......

 If any of you are looking for another calendar let me or Victor know!!!!!

 Cheers and thanks everyone and Happy Holidays.......




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


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


2016 Calendar available

23 September 2015

The 2016 Waterfront Watch calendar is now available. To order, either email or phone Pauline Swann (472 8417).

The calendars are $20 each and come with an envelope ready for posting.

Payment can be by:

• Cash: Direct to the seller

• Cheque: Direct to the seller or posted to Waterfront Watch Inc. Box 19045, Courtenay Place, Wellington 6149; cheque made out to Waterfront Watch Inc. please

• Internet banking: Our account is BNZ 02-0560-0364988-000. In the reference boxes put your name, then Calendar(s), then the number of copies required.

The calendars will make wonderful Christmas presents and have been designed with posting in mind. In their envelopes they weigh about 180gms and are of standard A4 dimensions so they conform to standard post (airmail) requirements. (If they weighed over 200gms they would be classed as parcels.) The cost to post to Australia is $3. The cost to post to the rest of the world is $3.60. The cost to post an A4 size envelope within NZ is $2.40.

The mail closing dates are: Sth Pacific, Asia, Nth America, UK and Europe 4 December.   Rest of the world 2 December.  Australia 9 December




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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