Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise Lost? The Role of Preferences and Planning in Achieving Urban Sustainability in Wellington, New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-22, 08:27 authored by Dodge, Nadine

This thesis investigates the scope for compact development to accommodate population growth in Wellington, New Zealand. The topic is particularly significant for New Zealand as the great majority of the population lives in urban areas, historical development has been dominated by low density urban form, and transport and urban form are two of the main domains in which the country can reduce its carbon emissions. The influence of urban planning and residents’ preferences on achieving sustainable outcomes is investigated.  Historical and current planning rules and transport policies in the City are analysed to determine their influence on the provision of compact development. Wellington’s transport policy shows a pattern of path dependency: historical decisions to favour car oriented investment have driven subsequent transport investments and influenced the ease of using different transport modes. Planning policies show a similar pattern of path dependency: planning rules enacted in the 1960s endure in present planning despite being packaged with different justifications and regulatory regime. Current planning rules severely restrict infill development in most existing neighbourhoods, which reduces the availability of housing in accessible medium density neighbourhoods and likely increases the cost of this type of housing.  A stated choice survey was conducted of 454 residents of Wellington City to investigate the extent to which there is an unmet demand for compact development and alternatives to car travel. The survey held presentation mode constant across two completion modes (internet and door to door with tablet completion), allowing the impacts of recruitment and completion mode to be examined. Survey recruitment mode appeared to influence both response rates and the representativeness of the survey, while completion mode appeared to have little or no impact on survey responses.  Using the stated choice survey results, a latent class model was developed to examine the preferences of residents and the trade-offs they are willing to make when choosing where to live. This type of model allows for the identification of preference groups as a means of understanding the diversity of preferences across the population. The study found that there is an unmet demand for medium density, accessible housing, but that affordability is a barrier for households to choose this type of housing. There was also an unmet demand for walking and cycling, with more residents currently driving than would prefer to use this mode, and more residents preferring to walk and cycle to work than currently use these modes. The ability to use a desired travel mode appears to be related to the neighbourhood in which a person lives, with residents of medium and high density neighbourhoods being more likely to use their preferred travel mode.  This study also modelled future development trajectories for Wellington based on demand for housing, neighbourhood and transport attributes. This preference based growth model was contrasted with the City’s plan for development over the next 30 years. Comparing the two scenarios, the planning based trajectory performed better than the demand based scenario in terms of both carbon emissions and achieving compact development.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Chapman, Ralph; Abrahamse, Wokje