OPINION: Senior Wellington journalist Georgina Campbell's fortnightly column looks closely at issues in the capital.
Wellington is at risk of becoming a museum, if heritage advocates continue to have their way.
Almost 90 per cent of Wellington's inner suburbs have character protection, the city's 30-year-old central library has been heritage listed, and now there's opposition to new contactless card validators at the main train station because they're not in keeping with the building's colour palette.
These are just some of the heritage battles which have played out in Wellington over the past year, let alone others in recent memory such as the Gordon Wilson flats saga.
Wellington, the country's capital city, is hamstrung by an obsession with protecting heritage and it needs to stop.
Last week, correspondence released under the Official Information Act revealed Heritage New Zealand didn't like the colour of proposed new ticket validators at Wellington's central railway station.
The Metlink colours of blue and green were going to be used, which is the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) branding for Wellington's public transport network.
A Heritage New Zealand conservation architect said those colours clashed with the station's historic colour palette. She said any new elements should be in keeping and "recede in prominence, i.e. dark brown, black".
Meanwhile, the physical presence of the validators was said to visually impact the "simple and airy dignity" of the southern end of several platforms.
The building has always been a railway station and was opened in 1937.
Heritage New Zealand's website says it was built at the climax of an extensive government programme to upgrade the city's railway facilities.
It was literally built to be a functional public building, in this case a transport hub.
We should celebrate the fact a Category 1 listed building can still be used for the purpose it was originally intended for, instead of existing as a cordoned off eyesore abandoned in the central city.
Kicking up a fuss about the colour palette of new ticket validators is at odds with the very purpose of this building.
Heritage New Zealand's position acts as a hurdle to achieving today's version of an upgrade to the city's railway facilities and operations.
It's an upgrade that's embarrassingly overdue.
Wellingtonians still have to purchase paper tickets to catch a train. They can use eftpos or cash at a ticket office before getting on a service, but once they're on it the only option is cash.
The whole reason GWRC wants to install six validators at the train station is to trial contactless payment using Snapper cards.
At the moment these cards can only be used for bus services- a far cry from Auckland's HOP card.
The trial on the Johnsonville line is seen as part of an interim transition until a national integrated ticketing system is rolled out.
Overseas, such technology is a staple part of people's daily commute and exists in train stations far older, and arguably with more historical significance, than Wellington's.
The fact people still have to use paper tickets on trains is a long held gripe among Wellingtonians and the council knows it.
GWRC chairman Daran Ponter has said the council is trying to pull the train system out of the Victorian era but Heritage New Zealand seems determined to keep the city there.
Heritage New Zealand believes the railway station can accommodate the validators and is seeking the best fit through location and design.
This issue is one of many getting in the way of the modern public transport network Wellington needs for a growing city and in a climate crisis.
Buses are being cancelled because there aren't enough drivers, the business case for mass rapid transit as part of Let's Get Wellington Moving is months behind schedule, and there's currently no public transport directly to the airport.
The colour palette of six card validators at the central railway station should be the least of the regional council's worries, but instead Heritage New Zealand has turned it into an issue.
The city needs to learn to strike the right balance between protecting heritage and allowing its landscape to develop, change, and thrive.
It's not like the regional council wants to paint the outside of the railway station in the Metlink colours of blue and green.
The council just wants to install some new technology with its branding on it so people have a sense of continuity between modes of public transport.
It doesn't seem that different to the Metlink-branded signs which are already plastered on the inside of the building. Not to mention the existing blue TAB sign on a wall above where the validators would be.
Wellington city councillor Jill Day summed up the issue well when she voted to reduce the amount of character protection in the inner city suburbs during debate on the spatial plan.
"This city is not a museum. We do not need to have a nostalgic city that holds us back in a period of time that doesn't serve us now."