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The public will have a full chance to comment on the application to redevelop and expand the Johnsonville Mall.
Independent planning commissioner David Hill has decided that the application by DNZ Property Fund Ltd to redevelop the mall will be dealt with on a 'fully-notified' basis – which means all interested parties will be able to make submissions supporting or opposing the plan.
DNZ's application was lodged with Wellington City Council on 14 October.
Wellington City Council asked Mr Hill, an Auckland planning consultant, to make the call on what basis, in terms of the Resource Management Act, the application be considered. This followed controversy earlier this year over the Council's notification of a proposed District Plan change (Plan Change 66) designed to protect the vibrancy and vitality of central Wellington's 'Golden Mile' against the effects of large-scale retail developments.
Plan Change 66 would include a 'trigger' affecting applications for shopping developments larger than 20,000m² gross floor area (GFA) of retail activity. It would require such applications to provide information on what impact the proposed development would have on the economic fortunes of the 'Golden Mile'. DNZ has stated that consent is sought for a GFA of retail activity of almost 30,000m² - compared to the 8,500m² of comparative retail floor space in the existing centre.
In his report, Mr Hill notes the proposal's potential impacts on traffic, urban form and other issues affecting the Johnsonville area. He notes: "I am unable to satisfy myself that the adverse effects of the proposed activity on the environment that fall within the matters over which Council has restricted its discretion, notifiable or not, will be minor." Mr Hill does not necessarily conclude that any of the specific effects will be more than minor, but suggests that public notification will assist in answering that question.
Mr Hill acknowledges that "a shopping centre exists on the present site; and [the District Plan] anticipates a suburban shopping centre redevelopment of the site." He adds though: "Whatever the merits of the application, and they appear to be considerable and anticipated, this is a development that will define the form and function of Johnsonville for the next considerable period of time. That seems to be commonly accepted. It will constitute the heart of a new town centre and has wide public interest and implication. It will affect the wider community."
It is likely the public submission process will start in February meaning a hearing is likely in April or May next year.
District Plan Change 66 & Variation 5