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Design Review: Volume 1, Issue 4 (December 1948)

Te Aro Again

Te Aro Again

The exhibition “Te Aro Replanned” aimed at stimulating public interest in town planning and at showing what could be done for Wellington's blighted centre. This object was achieved. Public apathy, the common deterrent to progressive town planning, was broken down.

Public reaction indicated enthusiastic approval. It was surprising, therefore, that the only quarter from which adverse criticism has come is the City Offices. Senior executive officers are reported on several occasions to have spoken strongly against the scheme. Their criticisms are easily answered. It is unfortunate that the Architectural Centre has not been able to reply in the same manner in which the criticisms were delivered. Three typical criticisms with brief answers follow. Space allows no more.

Criticism One: Insufficient area allowed for shopping.

Answer: Instead of leaving the shopping area strung out along the main tram routes for one and a half miles, it was spread laterally and compacted. Shopping streets were freed from serving the dual needs of traffic and shoppers, which would also save costly street widening. Detailed replanning rather than piecemeal rebuilding allowed a much greater use of available land.

Criticism Two: The opening up of the waterfront between Taranaki Street and Oriental Bay and the building of large hotels is economically impossible. The land should be used for warehouses.

Answer: The harbour is at present screened from the city by a line of sheds and fences. The area between Taranaki Street and Clyde Quay, suggested for tourist hotels, restaurants and swimming baths, is almost vacant now except for a few stores and Council yards which would be better elsewhere. What a glorious opportunity that will soon be lost for ever. There is room for wharf expansion northwards, where it should go to avoid adding to traffic congestion along Jervois Quay. Stockholm has just cleared a mile of dock area along the Lake Front to open up magnificent views from the city.

Criticism Three: There is no need for open space in the centre of the city.

Answer: Anyone visiting Te Aro with his eyes open must be appalled by the conditions. The only places for children to play are the narrow streets and tiny back yards. Factory workers must eat their lunch on the footpath and play cricket down a dirty side alley. The only reserves are three tiny triangles with public lavatories on them. One reserve provides a few seats, but on a fine day there is standing room only. By designing tall, airy blocks of flats, 12,000 people could be housed under ideal conditions with all the buildings set in one huge park.

There were other criticisms of a similar nature which indicate the same attitude. They are no more than sour protests against comprehensive planning in three dimensions, and against bold, vigorous, remedial measures.