The Wellington Town Belt Management Plan

Name of case study

The Wellington Town Belt Management Plan


Wellington, New Zealand


The space was set aside in1839 and has been controlled by the Wellington Council since 1873. The management is ongoing



Area / size

The original Town Belt proclaimed in 1841 was 1544 acres (625 hectares). 1061 acres (429 hectares) was conveyed to the citizens of Wellington in 1873. A third of that land is now used for community purposes.

Now, “the Wellington Town Belt forms an integral part of Wellington’s open space network, comprising 4221 hectares. It is complemented by the Wellington Outer Green Belt, which was established in the 1990s and 2000s” (The Wellington City Council, 2018).

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NbS employed


Type of NbS

Ecosystem protection, ecosystem restoration


Initially, the Secretary of the New Zealand Company, John Ward, in 1839. Now it is managed by the Wellington City Council. 


The Wellington City Council



Design group


Mākara Peak (left) and The Southern Walkway (right)
Source: Wellington NZ (2024). Top 5 trails in the Wellington Region.
Climate change benefits

In Oceania, where the effects of climate change are increasingly visible, greenbelts contribute to climate change mitigation in a number of ways: Carbon sinks and sequestration, natural disasters, air quality management, and addressing the urban heat island effect.

Societal / socio-cultural benefits

Wellbeing and the natural environment, preventing urban sprawl

Ecological benefits

Greenbelts are an opportunity to support local ecologies and native species, and protect the natural environment. They encourage people to engage regularly with the natural world, and to see it as an essential part of city life

Summary of case study

The Wellington Town Belt is an excellent example of a greenbelt in Oceania. Present day Wellington is fortunate in that from the beginning of the city’s development, a large portion of the natural environment was set aside and protected (Wellington City Council, 2018) and that protection continues today, stopping development and urban sprawl. 

Set aside in 1839 and given over to the city’s residents in 1841, it has mostly been preserved. Today, the Town Belt is 4221 hectares of parks, recreation spaces and natural ecologies. It should be noted that the land was taken from Maori when it was given over to the city. The Belt has restricted the urban sprawl of Wellington, and created a reasonably compact city, where growth has been directed along the valleys and bays. 

Climate Change

The Belt defines Wellington, creating a symbiosis between the natural and built environments. Acting as a carbon sink, the Belt plays a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering air temperatures, absorbing gases and metals in the air, and contributing to climate change mitigation.

Indigenous knowledge

The land that makes up the Belt was taken from Maori to be given to the city, so local iwi have a deep connection to it. Mana whenua interests are now being taken into account by the Council, and consultation is ongoing. There is now care being taken to manage wahi tapu and historic sites.

The preservation of the natural environment and people’s relationship with it is intrinsically aligned with Māori world views; prioritising the natural world and our collective responsibility to it speaks to wairuatanga and kaitiakitanga. The Town Belt is an opportunity to find ways to support Indigenous biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. 

Local ecosystems

The Wellington Town Belt supports indigenous biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. The Council’s 2018 Management Plan has a range of objectives to continue to help local ecologies to thrive, including restoration of indigenous ecosystems, increasing native vegetation cover to 65% by 2065 and supporting freshwater ecosystems.

Current Wellington Town Belt
Original Wellington Town Belt

Source: Wellington City Council, Wellington town belt management plan. Wellington: Culture and Recreation Division, Wellington City Council, 1995.

Various policies have been put in place to improve freshwater habitats and fish passage, replacing hazardous exotic trees and enhancing species diversity. Additional work is being carries out to deal with plant and animal pests, ensure stormwater infrastructure is up to date and supporting the Belt.

Read More
  • Bengston, D. N., & Youn, Y.-C. (2006). Urban Containment Policies and the Protection of Natural Areas: The Case of Seoul’s Greenbelt. Ecology and Society, 11(1).
  • Campbell, J., Bedford, R., & Bedford, R. (2014). Migration and Climate Change in Oceania (pp. 177–204). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Han, A. T., Daniels, T. L., & Kim, C. (2022). Managing urban growth in the wake of climate change: Revisiting greenbelt policy in the US. Land Use Policy, 112, 105867.
  • Parida, T., Riyazuddin, S., Agnihotri, S. R., Kolli, S. K., & Srinivas, N. (2022). A Study on Carbon Sequestration Index as a Tool to Determine the Potential of Greenbelt. Journal of People, Plants, and Environment, 25(4), 371–383.
  • Rowe, J. (2012). Greenbelts. 
  • Susan M. Opp, L. C. H. (2016). Local Sustainable Urban Development in a Globalized World (S. M. Opp & L. C. Heberle, Eds.). Routledge.
  • van Heezik, Y., Smyth, A., & Mathieu, R. (2008). Diversity of native and exotic birds across an urban gradient in a New Zealand city. Landscape and Urban Planning, 87(3), 223–232.
  • Wellington City Council. (2018). Wellington Town Belt Management Plan .
  • Zhu, C., Ji, P., & Li, S. (2017). Effects of Urban Green Belts on The Air Temperature. Journal of Environmental Engineering and Landscape Management, 25(1), 39–55.

Further resources

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