Questions & answers

In this section, there are a series of common questions and answers regarding the different aspects of the Planning for Growth project.

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Q&A's | Spatial Plan

What are the impacts on Planning for Growth in light of the recent COVID-19 global pandemic?

We can’t ignore the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic. We have an opportunity to think about the new opportunities and new ways we can better plan for the future of our city in a post-COVID-19 world.

From the ‘City Recovery Insights’ Survey (June 2020), we know there are likely to be some short-term changes to how we live and work, as the majority of the respondents are more likely to support local, work from home, or shop online over the next year.

There will be some short-term changes to the rate of the city’s economic and population growth due to the impact of Covid-19 on immigration and fewer employment opportunities. However, the medium to long-term outlook remains positive and the medium to long term growth projections remain relevant.

It is important that the city is prepared for this growth and takes the opportunity to learn from our own local experiences of this global event. This includes, focussing more on our local communities and how we can increase social resilience, better support our local businesses, and adapt to different ways of working. Opportunities have arisen for our city to be even more innovative and increase our sense of community. Investing in our infrastructure, open spaces, and community facilities will enable these opportunities to be realised in the long term, and the Spatial Plan is the first step in planning for this investment.

How will you make sure new housing is good design?

We want quality housing, not just quantity. This means that we will be considering how we can improve design across all building types. The District Plan is where we can influence these outcomes and we will be looking closely at how well the current rules and design guidance are working, and what might need to change to maintain the ‘cool little capital feel’. As part of the District Plan Review, a full review of the design guides is being completed. The design guides are used as an assessment tool at the resource consent stage. The design guides will ensure new development provides for quality urban design and amenity outcomes.

What is a Spatial Plan?

A spatial plan is essentially a growth strategy for the City.

A spatial plan is essentially a growth strategy for the city. It provides certainty about where and how we will grow and identifies what we will protect along the way. It considers a range of topics relating to the city’s growth, including: land use, transport, three waters infrastructure, climate change, natural hazards, heritage, and natural and open space values.

Our City Tomorrow: A Spatial Plan for Wellington City – An Integrated Land Use and Transport Strategy (the 'Spatial Plan') was adopted by the Pūroro Āmua Planning and Environment Committee ('the Committee') on 24 June 2021.

The Spatial Plan feeds into the Council’s Long Term Plan process, which will help determine what funding and key assets will be needed to provide for growth, such as transport and our three waters (wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water) infrastructure. The Spatial Plan will provide the strategic direction needed for the District Plan review which is the City’s rule book for development. It will also influence other Council strategies and policies such as our Infrastructure Plans, Development Contributions Policy, Community Facilities Policy, Our Capital Spaces, and many more.

We have created a spatial plan that is interactive and visual in an effort to make it engaging and easy to understand for all communities.

Click here to view Our City Tomorrow: A Spatial Plan for Wellington City – An Integrated Land Use and Transport Strategy.

What is the difference between a Spatial Plan and a District Plan?

A spatial plan is a non-statutory 30-year strategy that sets out where and how we will grow, and guides Council’s decision-making around future investment and asset management planning.

A District Plan is a statutory requirement under the Resource Management Act, 1991  (RMA), that must give effect to national direction and regional planning documents. It sets the objectives, policies, and rules for land use and subdivision on private property. The District Plan has a 10-15 year review timeframe.

In short, a spatial plan is a growth strategy, a strategy outlining the ‘where’ and the ‘how’ we will grow. A District Plan is the ‘rulebook’ for land development that turns the strategy into action and aims to implement the goals and directions outlined in the spatial plan.

What is a ‘housing type’?

In the inner and outer suburbs, different levels of intensification are provided through five different housing density types. These housing density types have been applied based on the local context and the opportunities for further growth that exist in the area (e.g. proximity to the nearest centre, public transport, parks etc). Overall Our City Tomorrow encourages diversity of housing style, type and scale, in addition to high quality housing to ensure density is done well.

These five housing density types are:

In the central city High Density housing is considered to be at least 10 storeys.

See visuals and examples of what these housing types could look like

See where these housing types are proposed – View Our City Tomorrow: A Draft Spatial Plan for Wellington City

What does this mean for my suburb?

The proposed changes for growth in the Spatial Plan are distributed across the city. The proposed growth pattern for the city directs growth in and around the following areas:

  • Central city – Wellington Central, Te Aro, Pipitea, Adelaide Road, parts of Thorndon
  • Inner suburbs – Aro Valley, Thorndon, Mt Cook, Newtown, Berhampore, Mt Victoria, Kelburn
  • Outer suburbs – Tawa, Churton Park, Johnsonville, Newlands, Khandallah, Ngaio, Crofton Downs, Karori, Brooklyn, Island Bay, Hataitai, Kilbirnie, Lyall Bay, and Miramar

In these areas a range of medium to high density housing is proposed in areas that are within walking distance of public transport, within or adjacent to centres and high frequency public transport, as well as community amenities.

To see what is proposed in your suburb view Our City Tomorrow: A Spatial Plan for Wellington City here.

To find your suburb use the navigation tabs for ‘central city’, ‘inner suburbs; and ‘outer suburbs’. Select and scroll through the section that corresponds to where your suburb is located, to find out what specifically is proposed.

I don’t see my suburb listed in the Spatial Plan; does that mean no changes are proposed?

The Spatial Plan takes a city-wide approach in which growth has been directed to areas that are most suitable for intensification based on a range of considerations, such as; proximity to public transport and centres, community services and open space, and cost of development in hazard risk areas. Ultimately, the city as a whole will be impacted in some form.

If your suburb is not specifically mentioned, no significant changes to density are proposed however we will be reviewing infill development rules as part of the District Plan review to provide more efficient use of existing land and to provide more housing choice.

Will this impact what I can develop on my property?

Once the Spatial Plan is finalised and approved, it will provide the direction for the review of the Wellington City District Plan. As part of the District Plan Review we will be looking at changing many of the current objectives, policies, and rules for land use and subdivision on private property based on the direction in the Spatial Plan. This will likely mean changes to the rules around how you can develop your property e.g. how high you can build, how many houses on a site etc.

The existing operative District Plan rules will continue to apply until decisions are made on the new District Plan, which is likely to be mid-2024. For some aspects of the District Plan, the new rules may not come into effect until much later if they are subject to Environment Court Appeals. On the other hand, there are some aspects such as heritage protections, that will take effect when the new district plan is notified in mid-2022.

How does the Spatial Plan fit into other council plans and strategies?

Our City Tomorrow: A Spatial Plan for Wellington City ('the Spatial Plan') is part of the wider Planning for Growth project and will provide the direction needed for the review of the Wellington City District Plan.

Planning for Growth builds on the goals that emerged from the engagement we undertook in 2017 called Our City Tomorrow and is a key Council 10-Year Plan initiative.

The Spatial Plan is also part of a wider inter-connected framework of strategies, policies, plans, and programmes.  These strategies and policies each have a role in the future of our city and are important for realising many of the goals and directions outlined in the Spatial Plan. In fact, some of these policies will be reviewed to reflect the directions of the final Spatial Plan, actions that are indicated in the Action Plan (refer to Volume 4 of the Spatial Plan).

Some of the key Council initiatives that have informed and will inform the direction proposed in the Spatial Plan are:

Other national and regional initiatives have also helped inform the Spatial Plan. These are:

How will the Spatial Plan be accomplished?

Our City Tomorrow: A Spatial Plan for Wellington City proposes a new city-wide growth pattern that will be accomplished as outlined in the supporting Action Plan (Volume 4 of the Spatial Plan). The Action Plan outlines the necessary responsibilities of the Council, in addition to other organisations and the private sector, to implement the goals and directions provided in the Spatial PlanThe actions identified will be made possible through a combination of following:

View the Action Plan

What is Backyard Tāonga?

Backyard Tāonga are the important natural landscapes, features, or areas of land with special wildlife, plants, or trees that are native and are important to the biodiversity of our city. The Spatial Plan proposes to introduce new rules in the District Plan to identify and protect these areas both on public land and on private property.

Over the last couple of years  we have been working with land owners who have tāonga on their property to hear their views on how to best protect these special places without getting in the way of daily use and maintenance on their properties. This work will continue as we gear up for the District Plan review.

Find out more about Backyard Tāonga

How can we plan for growth with Wellington’s known natural hazard risks?

It’s well known that Wellington is subject to a number of natural hazard risks. Consequently, it is crucial that we carefully consider and address these risks when we develop to build with resilience in mind, both in regards to physical resilience and social resilience.

We need to ensure our communities are connected and well supported, in addition to looking at how we can minimise the risk through modern building design and technology and prioritise investment in our infrastructure.

This essentially means we must assess our ability to live comfortably with risk, and get clear about what our options are. It doesn’t necessarily mean all development should cease, more so it means we must look at where we can minimise the risk through modern building design. It also means identifying where the cost of development will be higher or where alternative locations for new development need to be found.

In developing the Spatial Plan, areas of significant risk were considered in terms of how easily we can ‘build our way out of’ those risks. In some cases, this means that further intensification of an area is signalled as being discouraged (e.g. parts of Kilbirnie, Thorndon and Lyall Bay), while in others there remains potential to develop in an area so long as development is managed carefully and the right design and construction techniques are utilised. As part of the District Plan review, we will be undertaking finer grained analysis of natural hazards across the City, supported by a range of new and updated natural hazards information, to determine what rules are needed to manage land use and development in areas of risk.

What is the difference between heritage protection and character protection?

Often the terms ‘heritage’ and ‘character’ are used interchangeably; however they are two different things in regards to what they protect and the rules that apply under the District Plan.


Heritage is defined in the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and is recognised as a ‘matter of national importance’ which requires the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development.

Historic heritage is identified and protected in the District Plan through objectives, polices, and rules and includes buildings, groups of buildings, objects, places of significance to tangata whenua and Maori, as well as notable trees.

District Plan - Heritage Chapter

District Plan - Heritage List

View the Wellington City Heritage Inventory


Character is not defined in the RMA. For the purpose of the work we’ve done character has been defined as:

‘a concentration of common, consistent natural and physical features and characteristics that collectively combine to establish the local distinctiveness and identity of an area, and that contribute to a unique ‘sense of place’ when viewed by the public at large from the street or other public spaces’.

This can include things such as topography, building age, architectural style pattern, street amenity, boundary setbacks, building height and shape, and site coverage. When there is consistency in these qualities and of the streetscape, character protection may be considered. Many of the inner suburbs are recognised for their character in which rules in the District Plan protect the demolition and alteration of pre-1930 character buildings. See the following Q&A ‘What are the pre-1930 character Demolition Controls?’ for more information.

District Plan - Residential Areas Chapter

Pre-1930 Character Area Review 2019 Story Map

The Spatial Plan proposes to:

  • Continue to protect existing heritage areas, buildings and trees within these suburbs, along with identifying and investigating further areas, buildings and trees that may warrant protection, and
  • Refine our approach to protecting pre-1930’s character in the inner suburbs.

View full details of what is proposed in the character areas

View heritage places and objects information handout

What are the pre-1930 character demolition controls?

The inner suburbs of Mt Victoria, Thorndon, Aro Valley, Holloway Road/The Terrace, Mt Cook, Newtown and Berhampore are currently recognised in the District Plan for their unique ‘character’. This character is a result of a combination of things such as topography, site sizes, architectural styles, building ages, and the scale of buildings.

These areas have a concentration of buildings constructed prior to 1930. Currently rules in the District Plan control the demolition and alteration of these buildings in order to maintain this distinctive character. Redevelopment of these sites is therefore generally discouraged.

To view the current rules (pre-1930 character demolition controls) see the Residential Area Chapter (Chapter 5, Rule 5.3.6) of the District Plan.

See the Q&A above ‘What is the difference between heritage protection and character protection’ for more information.

View map of the current character areas

How were the proposed character sub-areas identified?

    A methodology was developed to narrow down specific boundary changes to the current pre-1930 character areas. This methodology used the Pre-1930 Character Area Review ( 2019 stocktake assessment) as the key evidence base and the starting point for refining the boundaries to the proposed subareas

    The methodology used to identify the proposed sub-areas provided in the Draft Spatial Plan consisted of the following:

  1. Review and further analysis of the Pre-1930 Character Area Review (2019)
    1. Officers reviewed the 2019 stocktake assessment, focusing on the ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’1 identified in the Pre-1930 Character Area Review (see Appendix 4 of the report).
    2. The ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’ were compared with the sub-areas identified in the current District Plan Design Guides2.
  2. Preliminary mapping based on further analysis
    1. Where there were overlaps between the Design Guide sub-areas and the ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’, noticeable concentrations of primary or contributory character along main streetscapes were identified.
    2. Preliminary mapping was completed which identified potential sub-areas.
  3. Site visits and field verification
    1. Site visits were completed to confirm boundaries of the potential sub-areas.
  4. Final mapping and conclusions
    1. Final maps were created with the proposed sub-areas. These areas were included in the Draft Spatial Plan.


Feedback was sought on these areas through engagement on the Draft Spatial Plan. In response to the feedback received, officers completed further work to review and retest the criteria and methodology used to identify the Draft Spatial Plan character sub-areas. This work led to amendments being recommended to the spatial extent of these areas and the removal of the ‘general character overlay’.

These revised character areas were included in the officer recommended Spatial Plan. Instead of adopting the officer recommendations to extend some character area spatial extents, Councillors adopted the Spatial Plan with an amendment to revert back to the Draft Spatial Plan’s sub-area extents.

See the Q&A's above ‘What is the difference between heritage protection and character protection’ and 'What are the pre-1930 character Demolition Controls?’ for more information.

[1] The Pre-1930 Character Area Review identified ‘sub-areas’ noted as ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’ where there are concentrations of sites that are categorised as primary and/or contributory to overall character. It should be noted, the assessment did not provide a recommendation as to how these areas should be managed through the District Plan provisions.

[2] Within the Design Guides for the Inner Residential Areas there are specified ‘sub-areas’ where particular consideration is to be given to the specific characteristics of the area.

What does mixed use mean?

Mixed use is a term used to describe when a development, building, or site supports a mixture of activities and functions. Typically these developments include two or more uses, such as a building with commercial businesses or retail on the ground floor with residential uses above.

Mixed use developments are beneficial for not only providing increased density but can also contribute to keeping things compact as it minimises distances between residential and commercial uses and enables more people to have walkable access to a variety of services. This type of development also contributes to vibrancy in town and city centres.

Mixed use developments are already provided for in under the District Plan in the existing suburban centres. The Spatial Plan aims to enhance this by directing growth to these areas, such as Johnsonville, Kilbirnie, Newtown, Mt Cook, and many others.

How can we plan for more growth when there are known issues with our current infrastructure?

When planning for our future city, it is essential that we consider the impact of growth on the provision of infrastructure, particularly our three waters infrastructure (water, stormwater, and wastewater).

We know there are issues with our existing water infrastructure with some areas at or near capacity. Growth provides an opportunity to bring our current infrastructure up to modern standards, increase capacity, and incorporate environmentally sustainable methods for managing stormwater runoff, such as water sensitive design and greening our city; it also can act as a catalyst to encourage the investment needed to ensure the long-term resilience of our three waters infrastructure.

The Spatial Plan is the first step in developing a coordinated plan to inform investment decisions in this critical infrastructure. The Spatial Plan has helped inform the 2021/31 Long Term Plan process and will help inform future Long Term Plan processes. The Long Term Plan sets out what projects will occur over the next 10 years and the level of funding required.

Availability of sufficient infrastructure capacity is one of the key influences that will impact our ability to successfully provide for future growth and maintain a high quality of life for all of Wellington.

Three Waters Assessments

Three Waters Assessment - Growth Catchments Mahi Table and Cost Estimates March 2021

Wellington Water Three Waters Assessment - Addendum Report (2020)

Wellington Water Three Waters Assessment (2019)

What is the National Policy Statement on Urban Development and how does it relate to the Spatial Plan?

The National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020 (NPS-UD) replaces the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity 2016. The NPS-UD takes effect on 20 August 2020.

This national policy statement requires Councils to provide sufficient development capacity to meet projected growth requirements in their area over the short (3 years), medium (10 years), and long term (30 years).

Under the NPS-UD we are required to zone sufficient land to provide for growth, and to also test the economic feasibility of development under the zoning framework and ensure there is sufficient infrastructure (existing or planned) to service that development capacity.

The NPS-UD includes a requirement that Councils prepare a Future Development Strategy that shows how and where they will provide for future development.

It also outlines certain policy directions that relate to ‘well-functioning urban environments’, intensification and density, amenity, car parking, and supporting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to help combat climate change. Under these policies the Council is required to:

  • Amend the District Plan to enable more people to live in, and businesses and community services to locate in: areas near centres and areas with employment opportunities, areas that are well serviced by public transport (existing and future), and areas where there is high demand for housing and business land.
  • Allow building heights of at least 6 storeys within walkable catchments to the city centre and metropolitan centres as well as existing and planned rapid transit stops.  We are proposing a 15 minute walking catchment for the city centre, a 10 minute walking catchment around the metropolitan centres of Johnsonville and Kilbirnie (though 6 storeys is not enabled in Kilbirnie because of natural hazard risks), and a 10 minute walking catchment around the train stations along the Kapiti and Johnsonville Lines.  This distinction reflects that these large centres provide a wider range of services and are areas with good access to the things people want and need, such as jobs and community services, and good public transport services.
  • Remove minimum car parking requirements (other than accessible car parks).
  • Ensure urban environments support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and are resilient.

There are exceptions or limitations to these policy approaches in order to consider other matters such as heritage, natural hazards, significant infrastructure, other special characteristics like streetscape character and amenity, etc.

The Spatial Plan is consistent with the direction set out in the NPS-UD to develop a long term strategic plan of action in response to future growth pressures. This will be given effect to through the District Plan Review process.

The Spatial Plan also proposes key policy directions that align with the NPD-UD, such as:

  • No minimum parking requirements
  • Minimum of 6 storey building heights within walkable catchments to the city centre and metropolitan centres as well as existing and planned mass rapid transport stops
  • Ensuring Wellington is a compact city by building within the existing urban form and enabling more people to live in areas that are located near centres and areas with employment opportunities, areas that are well serviced public transport (existing and planned), and where there is high demand for housing and business land
  • Ensuring Wellington is more resilient to climate change and seismic events and that the natural and built environments are healthy and robust, and that physical and social resilience is implemented through good design
  • Ensuring Wellington is a greener city, and that new development supports the city’s goals of being a ‘zero carbon capital’ by 2050. In addition to protecting and enhancing the natural environment by integrating it with the urban environment

We have identified specific hazard issues for Thorndon, Kilbirnie and Lyall Bay that we consider to be relevant ‘qualifying matters’ that may mean the 6-storey minimum building height required by the NPS-UD is not appropriate across all of these areas. Council needs to do further work to fully understand the implications of these hazards on the level of risk for development in these areas. This will inform future decisions about what level of intensification is appropriate.

In the inner suburbs, we have identified ‘pre-1930’s sub-areas’ which we consider to be additional ‘qualifying matter’ under the NPS-UD where enabling at least 6-storey buildings as directed, may not be appropriate. These areas exhibit a cohesive streetscape character and a lower maximum height will better reflect the current situation and help protect these intact special character values.

Learn more about the NPS-UD 2020

Read this Article: ‘Helping our cities grow up and out’ (21 August 2019)

How does the Spatial Plan relate to the regional picture?

In parallel with the Spatial Plan, work is also underway to develop and implement a Wellington Regional Growth Framework - a partnership between WCC, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD), NZTA, Iwi, all territorial authorities in the Region, and Horowhenua District Council.

The Spatial Plan is a key input into the Wellington Regional Growth Framework which takes a regional view of issues such as:

  • housing capacity and affordability,
  • transport capacity and connectivity;
  • protecting the natural environment;
  • developing a low carbon future;
  • improved access to jobs and services;
  • enabling sustainable and resilient development and infrastructure;
  • increased climate resilience; and
  • increased employment opportunities.

The Regional Growth Framework is essentially a spatial plan for the region that sets out a long-term vision for how the region will grow. It provides an integrated approach for how to maximise the best outcomes for the region in response to key urban development challenges and opportunities.

A draft of the Wellington Regional Growth Framework was consulted on in early/mid 2021.

Visit the Wellington Regional Growth Framework Website to learn more

How were the proposed medium density (growth/intensification areas) identified?

In 2018-2019 as part of the development of the growth scenarios, a range of criteria was looked at in order to determine where in the outer suburbs growth could be proposed. The Centres Hierarchy in particular (as outlined in the District Plan and the Centres Policy) was used as a starting point to identify potential growth areas. Given their current role and function, many of the Sub-Regional, Town and District Centres noted in the Centres Hierarchy were considered to provide the greatest opportunities for intensification as they are known to have a number of live and/or work opportunities already and are well served by public transport.

Neighbourhood centres were not considered with the exception of Linden, Hataitai, Lyall Bay, and Kelburn.

Further information about how the scenarios were developed can be found in the Beca Report - ‘Wellington City – Planning for Future Growth Preliminary Baseline Scenario Development’.

On the basis of the outcomes of city-wide engagement on the growth scenario in 2019, a more detailed assessment of the outer suburbs was undertaken.

This work included assessing the optimum location, extent and nature of new medium density development across the outer suburbs. This work considered existing services and amenities that could provide opportunities for medium density such as the range of activities within centres, walkability and access to public transport, access to open space, natural hazard risks, proximity to services (i.e. employment, schools, and community facilities), etc.

To ensure a consistent approach in applying the housing typologies we applied the same methodology to the inner suburbs. This provided the different medium density housing types that are best suited for each of the inner suburbs and this was considered alongside the inner residential character areas analysis work (i.e. the assessment that informed proposed changes to the current pre-1930 character areas).

Supporting Documentation:

What is proposed in regards to car parking under the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD)?

Under the recently released National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) we were required to remove all minimum car parking requirements for any development, land use, or activity with the exception of still providing requirements for accessible car parks (See Subpart 8, Policy 11).

Existing objectives, policies, and rules or assessment criteria that require a minimum number of car-parks were removed from the District Plan on 4 May 2021. The changes were made without going through a plan change process under the Resource Management Act (RMA) as required by the NPS-UD.

This means that across the city the Council cannot require parking for new developments and activities.

How do heights/storeys and heritage work?

When works to a scheduled heritage building or development within a heritage area are proposed, it’s not a given that the maximum height limit anticipated by the zone can be achieved. In these cases, the protection of heritage values become an additional determinant of acceptable height, which may mean the maximum height that can be achieved is lower than the stated maximum height limit. This means that the resulting development may be lower than that indicated in the Spatial Plan. Works to scheduled heritage buildings and development proposals for new buildings in heritage areas are always assessed on a case by case basis through a resource consent process.

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