A report by world-leading people-centred urban design experts, Gehl Architects, finds Wellington’s car traffic and parking is occupying too much valuable land which could be redesigned to support higher-density housing, greener and more public spaces, and to provide a safer and more attractive environment for people.
Gehl was commissioned by Let’s Get Wellington Moving to identify opportunities to raise the urban quality and liveability of Wellington city, while helping to reduce overall carbon emissions.
Commenting generally on the findings, Henriette Vamberg, who led the Gehl project team, noted that Wellington has some extraordinary qualities related to its landscape, rich culture and history, current built environment, and “intriguing street network”.
“However, Wellington does experience a number of shortcomings related to some very wide streets promoting high-speed traffic, and a considerable proportion of land used for parking in the central city. In our experience, this can also make the central city feel less welcoming at night,” says Henriette Vamberg.
Let’s Get Wellington Moving, a partnership between Wellington City (WCC), Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), and Waka Kotahi with support from mana whenua partners, commissioned the report to help ensure the programme gets the best out of its multi-billion-dollar investment in Wellington’s streets, public spaces, and neighbourhoods.
“Over the next 30 years, an extra 50,000 to 80,000 people are expected to call Wellington City home,” says Dave Brash, independent chair of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving partnership board.
“Supporting this growth, the Let’s Get Wellington Moving partners identified liveability as a major objective of our transformational programme. We need to make the most of this opportunity to improve transport and our public places.”
“Denmark-based Gehl’s Public Space Public Life methodology is considered best practice, guiding wide-ranging transport and urban development projects around the world. It promotes more liveable places by looking at relationships between the built environment, how people use and move around a city, and their quality of life,” Dave Brash says.
Gehl provides a holistic vision for how a good city might function based on quality, connected and attractive public spaces.
For Wellington, the Gehl report’s key findings include:
- Underdeveloped land holdings have great potential to be redesigned to provide for more public spaces which can further activate districts and support higher-density residential development.
- Car traffic and parking occupies valuable land in the central city and creates an unsafe and unattractive environment for pedestrians and cyclists.
- The waterfront has the most active and diversely used public spaces, while those in the rest of the central city are primarily used for movement.
- Public spaces are poorly connected, and those connections are often framed by buildings with inactive and dull ground floors.
- Wellington lacks greening and could benefit from better waterfront connections.
“Building on a previous benchmark study for Wellington City Council in 2004, this report builds on our understanding of how people use and move around the city, and how the quality of life has changed over the past seventeen years,” says Dave Brash.
“The study will also help us evaluate and design the projects in the next stage of the programme. We want to ensure Wellington retains, and enhances, its unique character and becomes more liveable as we deliver transformational change.
“This report also recognises that we are already working closely with our mana whenua partners and this includes opportunities where we can incorporate mana whenua narrative into the design.”
The 2004 Gehl study informed many changes the city has already made such as creating a cycling policy and progressing a cycle network, greening the waterfront quays, improving links to the waterfront, reducing through traffic, and improving Golden Mile footpaths.
The WCC’s Chief Planning Officer, Liam Hodgetts said that the Gehl recommendations were prominent during the Council’s district and spatial planning programme, Planning for Growth, which also incorporates a Green Network Plan, setting the direction and targets for how Council will green the central city.
“These plans are now under action through our capital works programmes, including recent investments in Farmers Lane, the Swann and Garret laneways and the Frank Kitts Park redevelopment. Other initiatives are also underway that ensure the central city grows focused on liveability and green spaces, consistent with the Gehl recommendations.” Liam Hodgetts said.
“Meanwhile, as we develop and design Wellington streets and transport for the future, the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme continued to offer once-in-a-lifetime urban development opportunities, added Dave Brash.
“Working together, with our programme delivery underway, reflecting Wellington’s own unique needs and that of our people, we are also incorporating the best international standards where appropriate.”
The Gehl 2021 Public Space Public Life Study
The Gehl 2021 Public Space Public Life Study Appendix
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