Wellington.Scoop »The Historic Streets of Newtown


by Claire Nolan
Waitangi Creek flowing from the slopes of Mount Albert fed the flax and boggy soil, where Millwood and Riddiford streets now stand. Parts of Newtown such as Wilson Street need deep house piles, and public drains with manholes on private property are diverting water even now.

As one of Wellington’s oldest suburbs, Newtown was initially rolling fields sloping to swampy ground ending at the Basin Reserve. The Wellesley Block was announced to settlers interested in a house with land. For the most part, they came from dense apartment buildings in the UK or from the slums of Te Aro.

The Wellesley Block was started in 1889 and featured a mix of housing, from the fairly large and ornate houses on Coromandel Street to the Wilson Street Streetcar cottages. The size of the sections also varied, some being very small.

The first cottages on Green Street look like Arrowtown. We understand why the WCC protected them 25 years ago. The infill, partly of poor quality, threatened the old houses and the integrity of the suburbs.

old new town hospital

The hospital block is now lost with disparate filling. So when a city councilor asks why most houses in Newtown are protected, it is simply because most were built before 1930 and some are 120 years old.

This is Wellington’s story – the settlers want a better life with more space and jobs. Newtown was originally a farm, with houses scattered between dirt roads and the new hospital.

Gradually, more and more houses were built with native wood and with unique craftsmanship. Some streets were named after the builders i.e. Alexander Wilson. Next to Wellesley Block (Mein to Constable and Green Belt to Owen), Harper, Lawrence, Green, Emmett, Owen and Balmoral are examples of unspoiled streets and homes.

turret house

One example is the Turret House on Owen Street built by the builder for himself and more recently with an attached sawmill.

Wellington’s first settlement was led from the UK. But the settlers came for a better life. And the new owners have gradually renovated most of their old homes.

The DSP process was divisive, with a campaign against older homes saying there was mold and damp. The activists wanted to empty the streets deemed intact by Boffa Miskel, responsible for identifying heritage housing. The WCC largely ignored the report, and sections of four- to six-story buildings were drawn on the historic streets. Heritage areas were reduced and pre-1930 protections removed from the rest of Newtown.

old newtown street

To the people of Lawrence, Harper, Owen, Minerva, Green, Balmoral and others streets. Watch your story, chat with your neighbors, watch the Boffa Miskel report. All these streets are intact and inhabited and renovated. Your streets may be disrupted and small houses may be shaded. The draft district plan is now available, so you can submit it on your streets or the effect on Newtown as a suburb, until December 14th.

Preserve the past. And place taller buildings on the many brownfields available in Newtown and all over Wellington.

Claire Nolan has lived in Newtown for 25 years.


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