Te Ara ō Whakatū - Nelson Pathways: Our journey to a revitalised city centre

01/06/2021 10:20am

One hundred people live in Nelson's city centre, but what would our city be like if that increased to 2000?

That is one of the concepts at the centre of the latest round of targeted pre-engagement on Te Ara ō Whakatū - the Nelson City Centre Spatial Plan.  Te Ara ō Whakatū, translated as Nelson Pathways, represents a 30-year vision for Nelson's city centre.

City Centre Development Programme Lead Alan Gray has spent the past three months meeting with more than 50 different groups to talk about potential plans and listen to people's ideas for the future of Nelson's city centre. From city centre workers to parents and caregivers, conversations have been held with a variety of people who all have differing perspectives on what a great city should offer.

"People first has been the common theme of many conversations I have had," says Alan. "There is a lot of support for the city being more focused on the people who live, work and play within it."

Alan describes city centre living as the key to bringing more life to the city.

"I keep hearing that people would be more likely to visit our city centre in the evening if the streets were busier. We currently have only 100 people living in the CBD, but 6000 people work there! Some of the changes we are recommending as part of our Housing Intensification strategy, such as encouraging the development of flats above shops, aim to increase that number. Why not aim for 2000 living in the CBD?

"This would cause a transformation for nightlife for Nelson. Busier streets would mean our shops might find it worthwhile opening a bit later, greater opportunities for more hospitality businesses, and a sense that Nelson is still alive even after the sun sets."

City centre greening aims to turn our major streets into leafy boulevards, creating shade and contributing to carbon sequestration as part of Council's emissions reduction plans.

Opportunities for informal play could occur through the introduction of street installations that people can interpret how they choose, making the city a more exciting place for children and adults.

"We shouldn't underestimate the power of Nelson's cultural identity. What makes us stand out from the crowd? Nelson is unsurpassed across the Top of the South for boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. That is one of our key selling points.

"We also want to continue improving links from the city centre to our natural environment. We are blessed with the natural environment on our doorstep, and this ties in well with kaitiakitanga, one of our project's core values, that humans are an intrinsic part of the natural world."

Case study: Blind Citizens NZ

On Wednesday, 12 May, Alan spoke with Roger Curry and Mike Stevens from the Nelson branch of Blind Citizens NZ and asked them what made a great city centre from their perspective.

"The safest crossing in Nelson for people with low vision is the Barnes Dance on the Halifax Street / Trafalgar Street intersection," says Roger. "It’s the only crossing in the CBD where you can be reasonably certain there is no traffic when you are crossing.”

Roger says there are many ways in which Nelson could be adapted to make it more accessible: Zebra crossings instead of courtesy crossings, a bus that made many stops within the CBD, more shade and quiet places, and seating designed so it is easy for someone using a cane to find.

“Our conversation with Blind Citizens NZ really summed up our goals with this engagement,” says Alan.

“There are so many aspects to urban design that could benefit people with low vision, as long as their needs are factored in as part of the project. By talking to as many different people as possible, we are confident that we can create a city centre that works for everyone in our community.”


Once the draft City Centre Spatial Plan is completed, the next stage in the process is community wide consultation later this year.

“We have a vision that will make Nelson a more vibrant place to live, cater for the increase in the number of workers we might expect to see at the Science Tech Precinct, and open up opportunities for more people to enjoy more time in our city centre. We want to hear from the community as a whole, and build support for this exciting opportunity," says Alan.