Nelson’s Lost Projects: Next steps for the city centre

A 30-year vision is being set out for Nelson’s city centre and the public will soon get to have their say. Photo: Virginia Woolf

Kate Russell

Over the last five weeks, Nelson Weekly has explored five bold proposals that could have made Nelson’s central city a more vibrant, bustling, and lively hub. Church St, Montgomery Square, Kirby Lane, Rutherford Park, and a performing arts centre have all been lost to hidden costs, red tape, too much opposition, and other projects. Kate Russell gets some insight from the Nelson City Council about what the future holds for our city through its City Centre Spatial Plan, which goes out for consultation next month.


Lost, but not forgotten. That is the reaction of the community when they are reminded of Nelson’s lost inner-city projects.

There have been reactions of disappointment, surprise, regret - as well as sighs of relief over the last five editions of the Nelson Weekly. But where to from here?

Nelson City Council’s city centre development programme lead, Alan Gray, says it all comes down to the City Centre Spatial Plan - a blueprint for Nelson City for the next three decades.

“The City Centre Spatial Plan has been gifted a Māori name, Te Ara ō Whakatū - Nelson Pathways, which sums up the thinking behind the plan ... giving clear direction towards achieving a 30- year vision,” he explains.

The plan contains eight transformational actions to increase the number of people living and spending time in the city centre while ensuring our cultural heritage is honoured, plant life is vast, and lanes and play spaces are enhanced.

While no specific projects are outlined yet, Alan says it’s an exciting step.

“Imagine what the city centre would feel like on a beautiful Nelson evening if 2000 people lived centrally, 1000 extra trees were planted, and this was all complemented by streets full of outdoor dining and cultural significance, places to play and relax, laneways that make walking from one great place to another quicker and more interesting, and a linear park stretching the length of Bridge St.”

He says, while 30 years may sound like a long time, some things will change quite quickly, while others will take longer.

“Some of the first things people see will likely be trialling people-focused scenarios that will allow us to work out what works well and what needs to be adapted.”

Pre-engagement has concluded, which involved over 80 meetings with members of the community over four months.

The chair of the council’s urban development subcommittee, Judene Edgar, says changing the way we think about our city centre is a vital part of ensuring Nelson is going to meet our needs today and in the future.

“We need to think about how we can respond to the changing needs of the public and business community, including getting more people to live centrally and ensuring those people can enjoy green spaces and recreation opportunities.

“The plan also proposes stronger links between the city and the new Science Tech Precinct and Library Precinct, which further supports Nelson’s regeneration and revitalisation.”

Consultation on the draft plan will begin in late August and run for four weeks. You’ll find hard copies at council venues, and a summary will be sent to your home, says Alan.

“We’re even making sure we get copies into pubs and cafes, as there’s no better place to have a conversation about our city’s future."