Key issues

As we plan for growth and the future of our city, there are a few key issues we must consider. It is important that we have an understanding of these issues as we consider the trade-offs and options in the four scenarios.


The distribution of residential activity across the city has direct effects on the transport system. The location of residents is a key determinant of their choice of transport mode to get to work and other destinations. The central area and inner suburbs have low and decreasing rates of car ownership and high rates of commuting by walking, cycling, and public transport.

The majority of Wellingtonians currently live in the outer suburbs. Car ownership is highest and growing in the outer suburbs. On average car travel is three times higher in outer suburbs compared to the central city. A growth strategy that directs new development to areas furthest away from the central city will therefore lead to more pressure on the transport network and more greenhouse gases emissions. The strategy will also need to recognise existing residents by signalling ongoing investment in existing roads and transport networks.

Three waters infrastructure

New and existing development must be supported by the City’s three waters network (stormwater, wastewater, water supply). In many parts of Wellington the network is at or near capacity which makes new development challenging.

New greenfield areas (identified in Scenarios 3 and 4) currently have no three waters infrastructure. New development in these areas would require new pipes and network connections to ensure the areas are serviced.

Examples of areas with known infrastructure capacity and resilience issues are:

  • CBD/Aro St/Newtown are susceptible to flooding. In the longer term, sea level rise will restrict the ability to drain flood water in parts of the CBD. Stormwater upgrades will be a critical issue to enable growth in this area.
  • Karori’s wastewater system is close to being at capacity, even without additional growth. Significant upgrades to the system will be needed to accommodate growth here.
  • Kilbirnie is low lying and susceptible to flooding, particularly during high tide periods. Sea level rise is also a consideration as the current stormwater management system is a medium term (20 year) solution.
  • Johnsonville has low lying areas that are susceptible to flooding and there are some local wastewater network constraints.

This means that significant investment will need to be made to upgrade existing networks to ensure it can continue to support the communities it serves.

Having a coordinated plan for expected population growth will enable us to ensure this investment is prioritised to the right locations at the right time. The spatial plan will signal where growth will occur which will feed into the Council’s future Long Term Plans (LtPs) to provide the necessary funding.


Much of Wellington City is affected by natural hazards with some areas more at risk than others. The reality is that we cannot completely avoid all natural hazards but we will need to carefully manage the risk associated with these hazards .The scenarios are a first step and help to show the different options for at-risk areas. We need to consider as a community how much risk we want to live with, and how we manage that risk (e.g. build seawalls or avoid high risk areas completely?).

For example, Kilbirnie and Miramar are both low-lying areas that are at high risk from liquefaction and sea level rise. Scenario 2 would place more people in these areas, and in the case of Kilbirine, significantly more around the town centre. If more growth is located here there would need to be significant investment in infrastructure to manage this risk, and there will be increased costs associated with constructing more resilient buildings and structures.

Business and employment

The scenarios are focused on residential growth as this is likely to be the most significant change for the city. In developing the scenarios we have also factored in growth in the city’s CBD and other commercial and business areas. Mixed use is already provided for in our Centres and Business zones.

Wellington City has the highest concentration of jobs in the Wellington Region. A large percentage of these jobs are within the Central Government, Defence and Safety (15%) and the Professional, Scientific and Tech Services (18.7%). Almost 40,000 people commute into Wellington City from the wider region for work each day. Over 40% of the region’s jobs and 63% of the City’s jobs are located within the CBD.

Regional employment is expected to grow by between 15% and 20% over the next 30 years. Between 55% and 60% of future employment growth is likely to be located in the CBD.

Employment opportunities also exist in our suburban centres and business areas such Newtown, Kilbirnie, Johnsonville, Kaiwharawhara, Miramar and Rongotai.

There will be continued demand for commercial and business land and floor space in Wellington which we must continue to provide for. Most of the land area required in Wellington will be in the sectors of retail, and health, education and training, while the floor space requirements will be in the commercial and government sectors. Overall the city will need more than 24 hectares of land and more than 60 hectares of floor space over the next 30 years. This is the equivalent of 20 Majestic Centres. Alongside this is ensuring the economy is supported with good quality transport options as well as continued housing options for current and future residents.

Once a preferred approach for growth has been identified through engagement with the community, further work will be required to determine whether or not additional areas for commercial and employment activity will be needed or if future business needs can be provided in the existing areas but with more efficient use of space.

Natural environment and open space

The scenarios will have different implications for our natural environment and open spaces – different types of development require a different level of investment/service in terms of parks and open spaces, and environmental protection.

The Outer Greenbelt and Inner Town Belt provide a solid foundation for the City’s natural environment and help to maintain our compact urban form.

Population growth will mean that there is increased pressure placed on open spaces. The scenarios and the feedback we receive will enable the Council to understand what types of open space are needed and where.

We also need to think about the City’s biodiversity and how this can be protected from urban development. Key considerations for Planning for Growth include:

  • Higher density living will need to be supported by sufficient parks and playgrounds. This may mean upgrading existing parks to meet new requirements, or acquiring land to create new parks.
  • If there are new residential (greenfield) areas, land will need to be set aside for parks and open space within the new development
  • There will need to be innovative ways to provide good urban amenity. This could be achieved through the use of pocket parks or integrating green infrastructure with new transport infrastructure. For example, tree planting alongside cycleways or more permeable surfaces to help manage stormwater and water quality.
  • New urban development will have to meet new requirements to manage stormwater effectively to reduce the impacts on water quality and reduce the risk of flooding. This is particularly the case for new greenfield developments which often involve significant earthworks and sediment runoff.

Community and recreation facilities

As the City grows, our communities will need to be supported by community spaces that meet current and future needs, and foster greater social connections and community resilience. There are 25 community centres across the City but many of these are older buildings which are underused. In the central City there is a shortage of open and communal spaces.

The City’s network of libraries also plays a key role. Wellington has a high level of library usage per capita compared with the rest of New Zealand. In some cases, our libraries are underutilised for their size, while others are heavily used. Advances in technology have brought about changes in what the community expects from library services, such as internet and computer services.

The Planning for Growth programme will enable the form and function of our libraries to be reviewed, relative to where population growth will be directed. In some cases this may mean downsizing some library buildings, and in others upgrading to reflect current and future uses.

In planning for growth, we will need to invest in new facilities that provide for future population growth and demand, serve a range of functions, and make efficient use of space.

The Waitohi Project in Johnsonville is an example of this. The project involves the creation of a community hub which includes the Library, Keith Spry Pool, the Whanau Manaaki Kindergarten and Johnsonville Community Centre.

Housing choices

The scenarios are focused on enabling sufficient housing for up to 80,000 more people. We need to make sure that in planning for future growth, a range of housing types are provided for. This means standalone houses, terraced houses, and apartments. There are three types of residential development in the scenarios – low density, medium density, and high density. Here are some examples of the type of buildings for each of these development types:

High density

  • Up to 15 storeys in the Central City
  • Up to 6 storeys in Newtown and Kilbirnie
Example of High Density in Inner City and CBD
Example of High Density in Central City - Photo source: WCC
Example of High Density in Inner Suburbs and Centres
Example of High Density in the Inner Suburbs and Centres - Photo source: Auckland Design Manual

Medium density

  • Lots less than 250 square metres
  • 2-3 storeys
  • Walkups, townhouses and terraced houses
Example of Medium Density in Suburbs
Example of Medium Density in Suburbs - Photo source: WCC Planning our Suburbs

Low density

  • Standalone family houses
  • Detached houses but close to neighbouring buildings
Example of Low Density in Suburbs
Example of Low Density in the Suburbs - Photo source: Auckland Design Manual

Current suburb density

To get a sense of the these three types of residential development (low density, medium density, and high density) in Wellington currently, see the map below which shows the current density of our Wellington suburbs.

Map of Current Suburb Density in Wellington

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