Revamping Wellington’s ‘lawless’ area could prevent crime

A hotspot in central Wellington is getting a facelift, with urban design features including wider pathways and more alfresco dining – measures the city council says can actually prevent crime.

Te Aro Park has a history of crime and anti-social behavior, and a shooting last month in which two people were seriously injured brought safety issues on Dixon St back into the spotlight.

The region’s reputation was one of the factors that inspired the council to launch its Pōneke Promise initiative, a collaboration between business, the Department of Social Development, the council and the police dedicated to making central Wellington a place safer. The redesign is also part of this initiative.

Chris Wilkinson of First Retail, one of the Pōneke Promise partners, said the Dixon St area needed to be refreshed after a spike in “lawless behaviour” that businesses weren’t used to. The revamp was a good way to bring people back to the city.

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A digital rendering of Wellington City Council's urban design upgrade to Dixon St, which aims to prevent crime in the infamous Te Aro Park.  (File photo)

Wellington City Council

A digital rendering of Wellington City Council’s urban design upgrade to Dixon St, which aims to prevent crime in the infamous Te Aro Park. (File photo)

Farzad Zamani, director of urban design for Wellington City Council, said crime prevention through urban design was at the heart of the redesign.

“The changes will bring the area back to life by increasing its vibrancy and opening it up to people, which in turn will increase passive surveillance or ‘eyes on,'” he said.

Restaurants and bars in the area, such as El Barrio and the Swimsuit Cafe, would be granted outdoor dining permits to bring people to the area.

The <a class=police cordon on Dixon St after a shooting that left two people injured last month. (File photo)” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Rachel Thomas / Stuff

The police cordon on Dixon St after a shooting that left two people injured last month. (File photo)

Zamani said “the buzz of people in a public space does a lot for the perception of safety.” He was convinced that the changes would make a big difference in the region.

Renovation work will begin in June. The main changes over the next few months will be an increase in sidewalk space, designed to reduce confrontation, new planters and more outdoor dining areas.

The public toilets will be moved to Inglewood Pl in 2023, once Wellington Water has completed construction of a new sewage pump.

The council has also granted resource consent for the demolition of Dreamgirls, a strip club opposite Te Aro Park, which it hopes will continue over the next few years.

Chris Wilkinson says businesses and the public sector have been able to work together to find urban safety solutions under the Pōneke Promise.  (File photo)

Cameron Burnell / Stuff

Chris Wilkinson says businesses and the public sector have been able to work together to find urban safety solutions under the Pōneke Promise. (File photo)

Wilkinson said business and the public sector have been able to work together to find solutions under the Pōneke pledge.

“That’s the essence of Wellington, we’re all coming together to fix this.”

Council CEO Barbara McKerrow said they were “just getting started”.

“This work is part of a larger project to revitalize Te Aro Park and restore the region’s mana.”

She said the council was working with mana whenua for the next step, which would involve the removal of toilets and other changes to the design of Te Aro park itself.

Council CEO Barbara McKerrow says they're

MONIQUE FORD/Stuff

Council CEO Barbara McKerrow says they’re “just getting started” with the overhaul. (File photo)

Opposite the park, in premises formerly occupied by Capital Liquor, the council has already opened its new community center Te Pokapū Hapori as part of the Pōneke Promise.

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