Planning for Growth Live Q&As

On the 13th of August we hosted a "Planning for Growth Live' online event - ‘What’s the shape of our city tomorrow?'.

From this event those who attended online were able to ask questions about Our City Tomorrow (the Draft Spatial Plan). These questions and their answers have since been compiled and can be viewed below.

All questions and answers have been organised by arranged of topics or areas of interest.

Transport + Let's Get Wellington Moving

What is the relationship between Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) and the Spatial Plan?

Let’s Get Wellington Moving is a joint initiative between Wellington City Council (WCC), Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. The programme is set up to develop a transport system with improved accessibility and efficiency for all, focused on the area between Ngauranga Gorge to Miramar. There is a close relationship between the Planning for Growth work and the LGWM programme. Given the close relationship, we are working closely with the LGWM team to ensure the visions and plans for both are aligned.

Good city planning involves looking at all the things that affect the way we live and move about in our city through an integrated lens.

The Draft Spatial Plan is the blueprint for how our city could look 30 years from now taking into account growth and aligning that to the aspirations of the people who live here.  LGWM is how we will get around in our city of the future, with the primary goal of moving more people with fewer vechicles.  Given the close relationship, we are working closely with the LGWM team to ensure the visions and plans for both are aligned.

The development of the Draft Spatial Plan is being led by WCC.

How has public transport to the outer suburbs been considered and planned for? Can the existing public transport routes accommodate more people?

We know there are issues with our existing public transport routes, with some near capacity and some areas not well serviced.  With growth comes the need to review current infrastructure and increase capacity, with a focus on environmentally sustainable methods of travel.  It can act as a catalyst for strategic planning and investment in our transport system. The Draft Spatial Plan is the first step in developing a coordinated plan to inform investment decisions in this critical infrastructure.

This will feed into the 2021/31 Long Term Plan (LTP) process. The LTP sets out what projects will occur over the next 10 years and the level of funding required.

This 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 Wellingtonians.

What is being considered for suburbs that are not on transport corridors? Particularly relating to the removal of minimum car parking requirements?

The District Plan is where we look in detail at what the removal of minimum car parking requirements will mean for different parts of the city.  Through the District Plan Review we will be looking closely at how to manage traffic, congestion and parking together cohesively.

What is a walkable distance?

For the Draft Spatial Plan, we have used a ten minute walking distance from the edge of Johnsonville town centre, and the Johnsonville and Tawa Railway Stations.  We have used a five minute walking distance for all the other stations.

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.

Amenity values

How is quality design of new buildings and housing going to be ensured?

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 ensure quality, and maintain our ‘cool little capital’ feel.

How will amenity values such as shading be protected with the addition of new tall buildings?

While building heights are being increased, there will still be other standards in the District Plan (for example, setback, outlook, recession planes and sunlight access standards) that new buildings will need to comply with. These standards will help to manage the effects such as shading and dominance from new buildings.

We are still working on what these measures might be and we will include them in our Draft District Plan when we consult on this next year.

How will more public open space be provided for in the Central Area? Will there be requirements on new developments to provide open/green space?

We are concious that growth puts pressure on our green, open space and public amenity areas in the Central City.  These places act like the new backyard, and are part of the oveall planning process.  What role developers have in providing green space as part of their project is someing we are considering in the District Plan Review.  This is all part of ensuring quality and maintaining that unique Wellington vibe and lifestyle that people love.

Intensification is likely to lead to greater noise. Will noise standards be changed to ensure ongoing amenity for residents?

This is also to do with overall quality and how we can ensure that through design across all building types. The District Plan Review is where this work happens and we will have noise very much in mind as well as sunlight, green space and general amenity.

Character + Heritage + Māori values

What is the difference between heritage and character areas?

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 (RMA, 1991), 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 Wellington City 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 on the other hand is not bound by any legislative requirements under the RMA, and may cover a broader range of considerations beyond heritage. In the current District Plan, a key objective is: “to maintain and enhance the physical character of Wellington and in particular identified areas of special streetscape or townscape character”.

Character areas are aimed at protecting distinctive qualities such as streetscape amenity and the overall historical architectural character of the neighbourhood.

Character is defined as concentrations of similar and consistent characteristics, that when viewed as a whole contribute to the local identity of an area’s overall ‘sense of place’. This concentration of character is often comprised of elements relating to streetscape characteristics (i.e. topography, street patterns, open space, street trees, land use, lot size, garage type and location) as well as site specific built form (i.e. building age, architectural style, building type and materials, building siting and boundary setbacks, building height and shape, and site coverage).

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.

District Plan - Residential Areas Chapter

Pre-1930 Character Area Review 2019 Story Map

Our City Tomorrow (Draft 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, by recognising the special characteristics of the broader suburb and enabling opportunities for sensitive, denser development in these areas.

View full details of what is proposed in the character areas

Have heritage buildings been identified in the areas that are proposed to have pre-1930s demolition rules removed?

We have identified a number of buildings and groups of buildings that we are considering for listing as heritage buildings through the District Plan Review process. Some of these are within the areas where pre-1930 demolition rules are proposed to be removed. This is in addition to a number of buildings in the pre-1930 character areas that already have heritage protection.

You can view the current District Plan - Heritage List for more information.

Where can I view the character assessment and methodology?

See the Pre-1930s Character Area Review here: Pre-1930 Character Area Review 2019 Story Map.

How can we make Māori heritage and landscape character more visible and valued through this process?

We are working with Mana Whenua, and will continue to do so to ensure there is a living presense of Māori values and heritage in our city of the future.  These values will be built into the new District Plan.

What is the Council's strategy for decolonising the city through planning for growth?

The Council is working with iwi partners to weave Māori values and goals throughout the District Plan which is currently under review.

How were the proposed character sub-areas identified?
  1. To identify the proposed character area sub-areas, the Pre-1930 Character Area Review was used as a starting point. In this review ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’1 were identified following assessment of each property by walking each street. This  highlighted where there were concentrations of primary and contributory sites (see Appendix 4 of the report). This demonstrated where ‘pockets’ of consistently intact streetscape character remained and where the pre-1930 character demolition controls should be retained.
  2. These ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’ were then compared to the current sub-areas provided in the District Plan Design Guides2. By comparing these two areas, it helped to identify where these areas may or may not overlap. Where the Design Guide sub-areas covered the majority of the broader character area, the ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’ were used as a starting boundary to determine the new sub-areas or proposed sub-areas for where the pre-1930 character demolition controls should be retained.
  3. A ‘streetscape’ approach was then used to draft new boundaries for where the pre-1930 character demolition controls would continue to apply. The criteria for these boundaries were:
    1. Is character substantially intact and on both sides of the street?
    2. Is there noticeable character in these areas?
  4. Where there were overlaps between the Design Guide sub-areas and the ‘Indicative Character Contribution Sub-Areas’ and there were noticeable concentrations of primary or contributory character along intact streetscapes, proposed sub-areas for where the pre-1930 character demolition controls should be retained were identified.
  5. Areas that did not meet the criteria of concentrations of character along both sides of the street (i.e. streetscape)3 or lacked noticeable concentrations of primary and/or contributory sites were removed, and identified as areas where pre-1930 character demolition controls should be removed.
  6. Final sub-area boundaries were then identified and ground-truthed through further site visits.

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.

View full details of what is proposed in the character areas

A big part of our engagement on the Draft Spatial Plan is to get feedback on these proposed character sub-areas to see if the community thinks they are correct, or if they should be altered.

Tell us what you think and make a submission

[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.

[3] The term streetscape includes both sides of the street as opposed to just one side of the street. The District Plan defines “streetscape” as being “the collective image of buildings and their relationship to each other and to the street (including, but not limited to rights of way, pedestrian routes etc.).” Therefore, streets that exemplified contributing character collectively on both sides of the street were viewed as contributing to the streetscape and the overall streetscape character.


Is the plan flexible enough to accommodate other growth scenarios, for example if less growth occurs?

The Spatial Plan is about enabling quality growth and there are some specific requirements that the Council must meet  under the National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020. The growth forecast looks out over 30 years, and we don’t expect development to occur all at once.

We are changing things now to provide for the right mix and quantity of housing needed alongside business capacity, and we will monitor and review the plan as needed to ensure our planning settings continue to be fit for purpose.

Are there provisions for restricting underdevelopment of land?

The District Plan is where we can influence these outcomes and we will be looking closely at how well the current rules are working and what might need to change.

How are contemporary Māori concepts of higher density living being considered?

The Draft Spatial Plan is intended to enable a range of housing types and ways of living. Our plan is work work alongside Mana Whenua to look at what might need to change in the current rules and design guides to enable this style of development to occur.

How will a range of living options in the Central City be ensured through the Plan? E.g. living accommodation for elderly and families so that Central City is not only catering for students and working professionals.

The Draft Spatial Plan is intended to enable a range of housing types and ways of living.We will certainly be making sure that housing for the elderly and residential aged care is provided for in the city’s future. This is important. The reference to ‘residential’ in the scenarios covers all types of housing, and this includes how we can design new homes to be accessible for the elderly and disabled. The District Plan is where we can influence these outcomes and we will be looking closely at how we can ensure that the city is welcoming to everyone.

Is the Council exploring the option of an urban development authority (UDA), e.g. in the Johnsonville area?

The Council is not currently exploring any specific urban development authority (UDA) options as we are still working through what the new legislation means for the Council and what the opportunities might be.

Natural hazards

Has seismic risk and tsunami threat been considered in the Central Area when planning for increased development?

Yes. We have minimised development around the most at-risk areas.  That said, we can’t avoid this sort of risk altogether and building design and technology will play a role in managing these risks into the future. The District Plan will provide more detail around how development in at risk areas will be managed.

Why is Kilbirnie a suburban centre with proposed intensification where there is a high risk from natural hazards?

Although predominantly residential in nature, Kilbirnie contains a regionally significant commercial centre that serves a number of adjacent suburbs - it is also close to a number of employment areas, including Newtown, Miramar, Rongotai and the Rongotai Retail Park, and Wellington International Airport.

We have taken into account the risks from natural hazards in the development of the Draft Spatial Plan and proposed development in Kilbirnie. We have considered the degree of risk across the area and in some areas we have not provided for further intensification as the risks are too high and building here would be too costly.

How are the costs of seismic strengthening being considered? Is there support from Central or Local Government for buiding owners?

The Spatial Plan does not set requirements for seismic strengthening, but we are aware that this is an issue for many building owners currently.

The costs and benefits of regulations are considered by Central Government in a Regulatory Impact Statement prior to regulations being introduced.

The Council currently has a modest contestable fund to support owners of heritage buildings, the Built Heritage Incentive Fund (BHIF), and a second fund for non-heritage buildings (which opens for applications next week).

The Government also recognises the challenge, and is currently seeking registrations of interest in a Government loan scheme for building owners who cannot access finance for seismic strengthening.

Commercial + Industrial land

What consideration has been given to non-residential land, i.e. industrial and commercial land?

Our City Tomorrow, goes beyond planning for housing and considers how we plan for our business areas and continue to support economic growth and development. We have seen employment rise in the city over recent years and while we know the impacts from COVID-19 are likely to mean some short term changes, in the medium and long term we know this trend will still continue.

As we continue to grow, it is important that we support the economic development of both the Central City and our suburban centres by ensuring there are sufficient opportunities for businesses to establish and thrive. This will also help generate increased employment opportunities close to where people live.

As the economic hub of the region, there will be a need to ensure that the city is in a position to satisfy continued demand for commercial and business land and floor space. This means we not only need to retain our commercial zoned land but also ensure our District Plan rules allow for efficient use of that land.

One of the five goals as outlined in Our City Tomorrow, is for Wellington to be Vibrant and Prosperous and to “build on its reputation as an economic hub and creative centre of excellence by welcoming and support innovation and investing strategically to maintain our thriving economy.”

Our City Tomorrow provides the direction to:

  • Support creativity, innovation, and technology in urban development and the economy.
  • Attractive, vibrant public spaces that incentivise new development.
  • Suburban centres are revitalised to support their viability and stimulate adjoin residential growth and development.
  • Increased opportunities to stimulate further employment and business growth and development in the city are available.

Find out more and view our business areas by reading the Overview of Our City Tomorrow

Greenfield development

Why are we building a green field at all? How is public transport being considered for Upper Stebbings and Glenside to make these sustainable options?

The Northern Growth Management Framework (2003) and the Wellington Urban Growth Plan (2015) identified Upper Stebbings Valley and Glenside West (260ha combined) for future urban development alongside Lincolnshire Farm. Located between Churton Park and Tawa, these areas are one of the last remaining greenfield areas available for new housing in the city.

Developing these areas will provide strategic connections between Churton Park and Tawa. The areas are in close proximity to shops and services in Tawa and Churton Park as well as transport links at Takapu train station and the State Highway interchange at Westchester Drive, making them well connected and reasonably serviced as new housing areas.

We are about to start looking into a possible transport link between Upper Stebbings and Takapu Station. This could support a future bus service to/from Takapu station.

These greenfield areas are gaps within the existing developed corridor that runs from Wellington City to Porirua. Bridging these gaps is preferable to opening up brand new greenfield areas elsewhere that would not form a logical extension of existing infrastructure networks.

Regional picture

What planning for growth is going on at a regional level between neighbouring district councils?

In parallel with Our City Tomorrow, work is also underway to develop 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.

Our City Tomorrow 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 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 will be consulted on in early/mid 2021.

Visit the Wellington Regional Growth Framework Website to learn more


How will accessibility be accommodated for all, including disabled, elderly, and children in the streets and in tall buildings?

Universal accessibility is a big focus for the Council and this will also be incorporated into the design guides which form part of the District Plan Review. There are already specific requirements under the Building Code, but we will be exploring how we can ensure better outcomes in new developments in the future.

Environment + sustainability

How will mandatory environmental outcomes be incorporated into the plan? E.g. water quality, habitat/ecology, wastewater quality, etc.

These requirements have been incorporated into our thinking in developing the Draft Spatial Plan, and we will be including specific requirements in the new District Plan to ensure better water management in new development to reduce the impacts on our waterways (e.g. water sensitive urban design requirements). We have also been working on our Backyard Tāonga project which is about identifying our special ecological areas and important landscapes and feeding this into the District Plan Review.

Why are waterways and streams not mapped on the Spatial Plan?

Our waterways and streams are definitely an important part of the City. The maps in the Draft Spatial Plan typically focus on the parts of the city where change is proposed, and we don’t intend on changing our streams and waterways as they are something we want to protect. Whilst we’ve not mapped them they are an important consideration in how we manage urban development in terms of managing stormwater runoff to waterways.

How can we improve biodiversity in the city?

We’ve been working with ecology and landscape specialists, and local Iwi to identify important natural areas of native bush and landscapes around the city. As part of the overall District Plan Review, we will be consulting on new ways to protect these special places. This work is carried out under the project Backyard Tāonga.

In addition to the Backyard Tāonga project, we can incorporate ecological design into water management and open spaces around the city. The Council is mindful of all the positive outcomes that come from improving spaces for native flora and fauna, and we are working towards this in a number of ways.

What provision is there for allotments/community gardens, not just park style spaces?

At this stage there is no special consideration given to community gardens in the Draft Spatial Plan, although ensuring a greener city is certainly a big part of the draft spatial plan.  Community gardens are often initiated by communities, who can approach Council at any time for assistance or guidance.

Given increasing drought conditions each summer, will the Council include mandatory water collecting on new and existing building projects?

This level of detail will be considered as part of the District Plan Review.


How has the effects of Covid-19 and the increased number of people working from home been considered as part of the Spatial Plan?

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 recently completed ‘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 Our City Tomorrow is the first step in planning for this investment.

Back to top