Wellington City Councillors have approved a proposed district plan which will go out for public consultation.
The city’s structural future has been up for consultation and debate for three years.
Thousands of people have submitted at different stages of the plan, which marks the first time Wellington’s planning rulebook has been changed in more than 20 years.
The proposed district plan also now takes into account the government’s higher density rules that come into force later this year, which will allow three homes three storeys tall without consent.
The plan aims to ensure the capital can house its growing population with the help of housing intensification with between 50,000 to 80,000 people expected to move to the capital in the next 30 years.
There were numerous contentious changes made to the plan throughout the day, as councillors debated several amendments after asking questions of city planners.
Notably, council decided the Johnsonville Railway Line would no longer be included in the rapid transit line.
It also removed an affordable housing chapter from the district plan entirely, meaning developers will not be required to include affordable housing in new developments.
All but two councilors voted down the provision that would have made it mandatory for developers to either include affordable housing in 10 percent of any new housing developments in parts of the city or make a financial contribution to new affordable units.
“I’m deeply disappointed by this amendment,” chairperson and councillor Iona Pannett said.
“And what’s more it leaves us with nothing that will actually get us affordable housing. My view is also we all need to pay for affordable housing. The developers need to pay, we as taxpayers, ratepayers, and residents all need to pay,” she said.
In the proposal, developments within 15 minutes of the city could be raised to six storeys. Councillors today voted to reduce that to 10 minutes of the city.
There have been no changes to maximum building heights for Te Aro.
Two councillors, Sean Rush and Liz Kelly, changed their votes on key matters like the Johnsonville Railway Line at the eleventh hour.
Councillors also debated heritage protection. Most who submitted on the plan were for intensification while many expressed concerns that heritage and cultural values would not be sufficiently protected.
Councillors voted down an amendment to the plan – put forward by mayor Andy Foster – to restore character protection that was removed last year.
Councillor Rebecca Matthews was among those who voted against Foster’s bid.
“You can’t keep all of the best land forever. We have kept a significant amount but we can not keep 90 percent for single-family dwellings,” Matthews said.
“It’s a city, not a museum.”
Eastern Ward councillor Teri O’Neill expressed her frustration over the results of the day to her fellow councillors.
“This has potentially been one of the largest cumulative wastes of time that this council has undertaken,” she said.
“Young people don’t ask for much – we just want to be housed – and I am really really disappointed with the people around this city that say they are planning for an ambitious future or liveable future because you have just walked this back in the space of a year,” she continued.
“It’s a real damn shame that in an election year two councillors have changed their votes on character and our mayor has walked back the leadership on what once a progressive housing plan.”
The district plan will likely go out for public consultation in July or August.