Wellington housing plan aims to remove protection for many older homes as it eyes housing for 80,000 more people

Wellington's spatial plan, arguably the biggest deregulation of housing in the capital in decades, is causing division between heritage lovers and supporters of a more intensified city.

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The WCC wants to allow more building up, and remove resource consent considerations for removing some pre-1930s homes in the inner suburbs. Source: 1 NEWS

The city council's plan proposes building up and removing the need for a resource consent to demolish some pre-1930s homes in the inner suburbs. 

The aim is to house 80,000 people in Wellington over the next 30 years.

About two thirds of the 5,500 pre-1930s homes in the inner suburbs could lose their protections against demolition. But safeguards would stay in place for the remainder, including in New Zealand's oldest suburb, Thorndon. 

However the council said there would be guidelines in place to make sure character areas are redeveloped in a way that keeps the street's character, including height restrictions of three storeys.

"What we are really focusing on is density done well, so if we do demolish, how do we build back so the character of the street is retained," said Vida Christeller, WCC manager city design and place planning.

A range of new building height limits are proposed across the city. From 10 storey developments in the central suburb of Te Aro, to six storeys in about a dozen outer suburbs.

The group Keep Wellington's Character said the proposals make it too easy to demolish old homes.

"I'm just asking for a good process before you demolish buildings," spokesperson Felicity Wong told 1 NEWS.

She said the plan could have a devastating impact on the city's landscape.

"We are absolutely in favour of more intense development in a compact walkable city but it doesn't have to be at the expense of heritage. Once the heritage is gone you can't get it back," said Wong.

She accepts that some character buildings may have to be removed but said the plan should be redrawn so intensification is more compact.

"There's a lot of empty commercial buildings that could be repurposed perhaps for housing," said Wong.

Wellington developers said the spatial plan is a step in the right direction

"It says all the right aspirational things we need and it's clearly addressing the fact we need to allow development to go higher," said developer Peter Dow.

But he said barriers to intensification remain like rising building and insurance costs. 

"The key issue is working out ways we can build for less. So it doesn't mean building a lesser quality. It means building for less, and the only way you can achieve that is by having a level of volume."

Developer Maurice Clark agreed intensification is the way forward, while saving the city's most important heritage. 

"They have to go up and you could say that ruins the character of Wellington but to sprawl it out beyond Whitby or up into Ōtaki would also defeat the purpose," said Clark. 

The group A City For People, made up of environment and transport professionals, is campaigning in support of the spatial plan. 

"We have heard a lot from people who say they want to protect the character of old houses, and what we are saying is that the character of a city comes from its people," spokesperson Isla Stewart says.

"Without a credible plan for new affordable homes, a whole generation of Wellingtonians is at risk of being forced out from the central city into new suburbs sprawling north, and spending hours every day in traffic jams."

Wellingtonians have until October 5 to make a submission on the council's spatial plan.